Kenya: Valuation Report NLC Used to Pay Sh12.1 Billion for Railway Land Goes Missing

A valuation report used by a government agency to pay Sh12.1 billion for compulsory acquisition of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) land has mysteriously gone missing.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly yesterday, National Land Commission (NLC) acting Chief Executive Officer Kabale Tache said the documents could not be traced.

The acquisition of the land, which was done by NLC on behalf of Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), was flagged in a special audit report by Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu.

The audit report, which covers NLC's accounts for the financial years 2014/15 and 2016/17, also puts former NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri on the spot over the irregular acquisition of the land.

But yesterday, the watchdog committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi was shocked after Ms Tache said attempts by the commission to get the reports have been futile.

"Whenever I try to look for the report, it is always a challenge," Ms Tache, who was not the commission CEO at the time, told the committee yesterday.

"It would, therefore, be difficult to get these reports the committee is asking for. I don't think even the ones we have at the commission are authentic," the acting CEO said.

Missing reports

Mr Wandayi said the committee was not shocked that the valuation reports were missing.

"Some of these valuation reports do not conform to the law as they are undated, unsigned and in some cases outdated," said Mr Wandayi.

"But we are concerned that the commission acted on letters of award to make payments arbitrarily and without any confirmation. The committee will dig deeper into the malfeasance," he added.

Ms Tache's disclosures further cast a shadow on the Sh23 billion the NLC used to acquire land on behalf of eight state agencies during the period under review.

Suspended NLC CEO Tom Chavangi told the committee Dr Swazuri was running the show at the time and that in most cases his (Chavangi's) role was usurped and authority overlooked.

The committee was shocked at Ms Tache's revelation that in some instances, the commission is forced to send valuers to the ground to confirm details of acquired land.

Equally confounding was exposure by the audit report that NLC compensated landowners based on valuation schedules that were either not dated, not signed or not availed.

Shambolic job

In some cases, the House team heard, payments were made without evidence of valuation reports.

Ms Tache confirmed to the committee that the valuation reports the commission handed to the Auditor-General were indeed undated and unsigned.

Ms Tache told the MPs that she has since directed the commission's acting Director of Valuation to ensure all the valuation reports are handed over to her before any payment is made.

"I want to tell this committee that even some of the documents we provided to the Auditor-General were not signed. But I blame the former Director for Valuation for failing to hand over the reports to the then CEO," she said.

Based on Ms Tache's response, the committee members resolved to summon Dr Swazuri, former vice-chairperson Abigael Mbagaya and former NLC Director of Land Valuation Salome Munubi.

The watchdog also summoned former NLC commissioners who were in the land acquisition committee.

Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo said it was a shame that NLC, which had competent valuers and professional colleagues in the field, did a shambolic job. He called on the House committee to take stern action against the valuers.

Valuation process

In an October 6, 2014 letter to KRC Managing Director Atanus Maina, Dr Swazuri delegated the commission's compulsory acquisition role on behalf of government entities.

"Due to the urgency of the project, the commission hereby delegates the role of dispensing payments to KRC under direct supervision," Dr Swazuri says in the letter.

"You will be expected to urgently provide for demolition and site clearance of debris at Sh210.13 million. Other subsequent costs will be submitted in due course," he adds.

Dr Swazuri's directive is contrary to section 111 (1A) of the Land Act of 2012.

The section requires the acquiring entity (NLC) to have compensation funds including survey fees, registration fees and any costs deposited in its accounts first before the acquisition is undertaken.

Yesterday, Mr Maina who appeared before the committee threw the ball back at the NLC.

Mr Maina said the valuation process was done by the NLC and that KRC only disbursed the cash.

"Using schedules provided by NLC, the role of KRC was just payment. At the end of it we submitted a report to NLC on who was paid," said Mr Maina.

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