Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sh6bn grabbed land seized by Kenya graft team

Kenya Anti Corruption Commission acting director John Mutonyi (left) hands over the ownership documents to Forestry minister Noah Wekesa. Photo/JAMES NJUGUNA

Kenya Anti Corruption Commission acting director John Mutonyi (left) hands over the ownership documents to Forestry minister Noah Wekesa. Photo/JAMES NJUGUNA  

By LUCAS BARASA AND SAMUEL SIRINGI, [email protected]

Grabbed land with a market value of Sh6 billion has been seized by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission. On Wednesday, the anti-corruption agency handed back to the government land worth Sh1.7 billion, which had been stolen from the Forestry ministry and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

It is a damning indictment of Kenya’s culture of stealing public property by people in authority, including sitting Members of Parliament, councillors, army officers, business people and heads of public corporations.

Graft watchdog

A serving Cabinet minister surrendered Processional Way — a key road linking State House Road and Nyerere Road. “It is a shame we must bring to an end,” the graft watchdog’s acting director, Dr John Mutonyi, told the Nation: “It has gone on for long, become a culture and now we must act.”

He said his organisation would step up asset seizures and prosecute the grabbers. Some 100 acres in the Ngong forest belonging to the Kenya Forest Service and 60 acres belonging to the Kenya Wildlife Service were handed back. Also seized are parcels of land valued at Sh601 million in Karura Forest, five parcels in Tigoni, Kiambu, worth Sh92 million a Sh1 million land belonging to Gusii Technical Institute.

Land set aside for the Northern bypass, valued at Sh11.8 million, had been grabbed, halting the construction of the link road. In Kajiado, Sh13 million land has also been repossessed. The recoveries are in addition to the Sh2.9 billion Grand Regency Hotel (now Laico), Sh178 million houses in Woodley/Joseph Kang’ethe estate and Sh15.7 million flats belonging to Nairobi council.

The graft watchdog further recovered Sh370 million in cash on behalf of various government institutions. This brings the value of the property recovered since 2004 to Sh6 billion. Speaking when he handed over the property to Forestry and Wildlife minister Noah Wekesa, Dr Mutonyi put the grabbers on notice and asked for the public’s support and of other government institutions in the war on corruption.

The 100-acre KFS land was to be allocated to Kenya Broadcasting Corporation to build its headquarters in 1981. The KFS land is next to the polo club at Jamhuri Park while the KWS property is on Mombasa road. “The government is doing everything possible to safeguard public property and those who have acquired, or (are) thinking of acquiring public property irregularly, will not be allowed to enjoy it,” Dr Mutonyi said.

Dr Wekesa said the carving KFS’s land started in 1994 and objections were invited from interested persons. Prof Wangari Maathai objected to the proposed alteration of boundaries of Ngong Forest and succeeded in halting the process. “However, even after these objections and withdrawal of intention to alter the boundaries of Ngong Forest Road Reserve, unscrupulous public officials in collusion with speculators, somehow fraudulently caused the land to be subdivided into six parcels,” Dr Mutonyi said.

The bigger one of the parcels measured 50 acres, while the others were four to 10 acres, a source familiar with the case told the Nation. The anti-corruption agency declined to name the grabbers, saying investigations were still going on. It learnt of the transactions last year and worked with the Lands ministry to recover the land.

Allotments and title deeds were surrendered and revoked. The KWS land, which is part of the Nairobi National Park, was illegally carved out and given to a private company known as Zima Holdings Limited in 1991. To regularise the illegal alienation, he said, the Original Survey Plan F/R 92/28 was in 2001 fraudulently redrawn by an officer of the Survey Department, leaving out 60 acres now designated as L.R NO 28197.
Fencing land

Surprisingly, he added, KWS also left out the portion when fencing the land. There was no KWS official at Wednesday’s ceremony, although Dr Mutonyi said he sent out invitations. KFS chairman Richard Musangi said part of Karura Forest land was given to a company called Ballistic Limited and that its directors were known. “We have already acquired 10 titles of some of our forest lands that had been grabbed,” said Prof Musangi.

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