CAIRO, Sept 6 – Egypt’s parliament approved on Tuesday the appointment of Major General Mohamed Ali El-Sheikh as supply minister after his predecessor resigned amid allegations of corruption in wheat procurement in the world’s largest importer of the grain.
Khaled Hanafi stepped down on Aug. 25 under pressure from parliament, which had launched an investigation into allegations that millions of dollars intended to subsidise farmers were used to purchase more wheat on paper than was found in silos.
The public prosecutor has charged several private silo owners and others with profiteering, forgery and enabling the embezzlement of public funds. Hanafi does not face criminal charges himself over the scandal.
The Ministry of Supply is in charge of Egypt’s food subsidy programme and main state grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC).
Before his appointment as minister, Sheikh was head of the armed forces’ public services division. Sheikh’s career has seen him serve in several senior administrative roles in the Defence Ministry and he was previously responsible for the supply department of the military.
Sheikh was nominated by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. His appointment was confirmed by parliament in a vote on Tuesday.
Egypt has been mired in controversy over whether much of the roughly 5 million tonnes of grain the government said it procured in this year’s harvest exists only on paper, the result of local suppliers falsifying receipts to pocket government payments.
Parliamentarians who formed a fact-finding commission to investigate the suspected fraud have said upwards of 2 million tonnes, or 40 percent of the locally procured crop, may be unaccounted for.
The general prosecutor has ordered arrests and travel bans, and has frozen the assets of several private silo owners and others.