May 23, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Kenyan lawmakers are demanding the dismissal of the nation’s agriculture secretary after government agencies distributed fake fertilizer through a subsidy program, the latest scandal to hit President William Ruto’s government.

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Eighty percent of legislators present in parliament on Thursday voted in favor of Mithika Linturi’s removal for allegedly flouting constitutional provisions on integrity and the prudent use of public resources, according to the motion in the National Assembly. The minister is alleged to have approved the “procurement and distribution of fake fertilizer.”

In March, the East African nation’s standards agency admitted that the state-run National Cereals and Produce Board was selling substandard fertilizer to unsuspecting farmers, jeopardizing the economy that relies on farming for about a quarter of total output.

Linturi has denied any wrongdoing and said his ministry was carrying out its own probe. Last month, he told legislators that a dozen companies including OCP SA and Yara International ASA won contracts to supply the government with fertilizer for the program.

The government has faced criticism for failing to curb graft. Kenya ranks 126 out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2023 Global Corruption Perceptions Index.

Authorities are investigating the matter, the public prosecutor’s office said this week in a post on X. It ordered the arrest of four people, including the head of the NCPB.

Following approval of the ouster motion, the assembly will now investigate the matter, according to Speaker Moses Wetang’ula. If found guilty, lawmakers will summon the minister to defend himself, and they will hold a vote on his dismissal.

The distribution of the farming additive, which coincided with the planting season — coupled with El Niño weather conditions that are causing flooding in most of East Africa — are likely to hurt food production and stoke inflation in coming months.

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