Ministries battle for IDP cash

Saturday October 31 2009

Special Programmes minister Naomi Shabaan accuses some top officials at Office of the President and Treasury of ulterior motives for developing a ‘sudden interest’ in buying land for displaced people. Photo/FILE

Special Programmes minister Naomi Shabaan accuses some top officials at Office of the President and Treasury of ulterior motives for developing a ‘sudden interest’ in buying land for displaced people. Photo/FILE 

By DAVID OKWEMBAH

A fight for the control of Sh1.4 billion meant to buy land for internally displaced persons (IDPs) is the cause of the war of words between the Office of the President, Treasury and the ministry of Special Programmes, the Sunday Nation has established.

And on Saturday, the minister for Special Programmes, Dr Naomi Shabaan, added a new twist to the controversy when she disclosed that money meant for the victims of the post-election violence was being kept at the Treasury and not in her ministry. The resettlement of IDPs is within her docket.

She further rubbished an audit report compiled by the Office of the President which blames her ministry for the loss of Sh200 million, saying that she had, in March, 2009, asked the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) to investigate corruption involving members of the provincial administration after she was alerted to rampant graft in IDP camps.

“The audit by the Office of the President was initiated a month later to cover up what KACC was meant to unearth,” Dr Shabaan told the Sunday Nation on Saturday. She described the findings of the audit, which names officials in her ministry as having squandered Sh200 million, as a red herring.

“We have been condemned unheard because we were not involved in the audit,” the minister said, adding that her ministry had strictly followed procurement rules in buying building materials for IDPs. “We are shocked at the sudden interest some officials at Harambee House and Treasury have taken in the IDPs issue,” the minister said.

Affected camps

She noted that her ministry did not have officials in the affected camps and they solely relied on lists and registers compiled by officials of the provincial administration. “We don’t even pay IDPs, it is the provincial administration under the Office of the President who are responsible,” Dr Shabaan added.

Government sources said the audit report was a smoke screen as some top officials in the Office of the President had already identified land they wanted to sell to the government but the ministry of Special Programmes was the stumbling block. The land is located in Molo area in the Rift Valley. Dr Shabaan said corruption had infiltrated the IDP camps with the provincial administration officials as the key culprits.

According to sources that cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, two Permanent Secretaries identified the land after overflying the Rift Valley in search of large tracts of land for purchase by the government.

After identifying the land, they summoned top officials of the ministry of Special Programmes who demanded to know how the land was identified and if the ministry of Lands was involved. The issue ended up in the President’s Office where officials of the OP were directed to follow due process by involving all the relevant ministries.

“That is how the ministry of Lands was brought into the IDPs programme as they are the statutory body responsible for land acquisition by government,” our source added. The Permanent Secretary for Lands, Ms Dorothy Angote, confirmed that the government had set aside Sh1.4 billion to buy land for IDPs.

Ms Angote said the government was yet to settle on the ideal land. She confirmed that each of the IDPs would be allocated a minimum of two acres or more depending on the productivity of the land. She said the government would use scientific methods to determine the land productivity before giving it out to the IDPs.

The Sh1.4 billion for land is besides Sh2.15 billion already spent by the government to resettle some of the IDPs. Non-governmental organisations and the international community are estimated to have spent a further $300 million (Sh2.4 billion) to build houses and other support for the IDPs.

Top officials

Our source based in the Office of the President said top officials at Harambee House had targeted the IDPs money as the resettlement process comes to an end. Last month, the PS for Special Programmes, Mr Ali Mohammed, said the government had bought two pieces of land in Rongai and Laikipia to resettle the victims.

He further said that the government had closed 118 camps in six provinces within a period of six months. “The only camps which are still operating are at the Eldoret ASK showground and Sawmill in Molo,” Mr Mohammed said. On Saturday, Dr Shabaan took issue with some politicians whom she accused of using the IDPs issue as a campaign tool for the next General Election.

She complained that Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta had flagged off a convoy of IDPs two weeks ago from Mawingu farm to be resettled in Rongai without involving her ministry. “While the IDPs issue falls within my docket, I saw the flagging off on television like all other Kenyans,” the minister said. The Sunday Nation was unable to reach Mr Kenyatta yesterday as he did not answer our calls.

She dismissed the IDPs who claimed to have walked from Limuru’s Kirathimo camp to Laikipia, a distance of more than 200 km, as “fraudsters” saying that the camp had been closed last year.

Dr Shabaan said the issue of land was the last one her ministry’s action plan after experts advised that at least 10 per cent of the victims might need to be resettled elsewhere after being displaced by post-election violence. But she noted that the interest the matter had generated was a pointer that there was more than meets the eye.

The corruption in paying out IDPs was exposed in Eldoret last month when the chairman of the Eldoret showground IDPs, Mr Ndungu Wanjohi, was detained after he was paid Sh35, 000. Dr Shabaan said that during one of her field visits, she had seen interference of the lists compiled by the provincial administration hence her decision to call in the KACC.