Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission told to vacate building

Saturday February 21 2015

The building that houses the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE

The building that houses the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission in Nairobi. The commission has been told to vacate by June 2015 by the owner. FILE PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SAMWEL BORN MAINA
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The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has been ordered to vacate its Integrity Centre headquarters by June 30 when the current lease expires, the Sunday Nation can reveal.

In a notice sent to chairman Mumo Matemu, the owners of the building, Revack Limited, a company associated with former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott, wants the commission to start renovating the iconic building in Nairobi before moving out.

“We are instructed by the proprietor of the above building to notify you that the owner will not renew the lease on the basis of which you occupy the premises. As you are aware, your lease expires on June 30, 2015. The owner demands you deliver vacant possession of the property after full restoration at your cost as required in the lease,” reads the letter dated February 18, 2015, and sent by Mr SK Kiplagat of Kipkenda and Company Advocates.

'FIGHTING A BIG WAR'

The notice has triggered a robust reaction from Mr Matemu who says the ownership of the building was the subject of investigation.  

“We have to check how the ownership of this building is structured. If the owner is Revack, why is Revack again writing on behalf of the landlord?” Mr Matemu asked.

The commission chairman linked the eviction notice to a scheme targeting the disruption of various high-profile investigations.

“We are fighting a big war and we are currently pursuing three major cases of national importance. People are hitting back in a bid to divert investigations. Bu we have promised to deliver and that we must do,” Mr Matemu said.

Mr Matemu said investigations on the Anglo Leasing scandal, alleged procurement irregularities at the Geothermal Development Corporation and the “chicken” saga involving the suspected bribery of Kenyan election and education officials by a British printing company had exposed the commission to attacks.

REVOLVING DOOR

The imposing Integrity Centre in Milimani has over the years been synonymous with the fight against corruption with the names of the agencies changing but the headquarters remaining the same.

The commission was previously known as the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority from 1997 and later the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

The latest high-profile individuals to go through the revolving door are Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir who was grilled over the “chicken” saga on Friday and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Isaack Hassan who appeared on Thursday.

And in a further twist to the eviction notice, the building’s owners have accused an unnamed commissioner of working with fraudsters to illegally change the ownership of the building in a scheme to grab it.

The lawyers have threatened to take legal action against those concerned. 

“Our client has learnt that one of the commissioners and a member of the commission staff were directly involved in an attempt to forge the ownership document of the property in team work with other fraudsters,” wrote lawyer Kiplagat. “Our client will not, therefore, be willing to host your commission it its building in view of the above facts.”

Mr Kiplagat told the Sunday Nation that the ethics commission will no longer be accommodated by his client as a tenant in view of the fact that some of the commissioners were involved in “actionable criminal forgery of documents relating to the building”.

“You cannot have your tenant helping criminals to interfere with ownership documents,” said Mr Kiplagat.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

He added: “I don’t have to disclose a lot of facts because I haven’t been authorised. However, what I know is that we are preparing appropriate legal proceedings against individuals involved in the forgeries, including private prosecution and petition to remove them from office.”

Mr Matemu said the letter was defamatory and denied involvement of any commissioner in such a scheme. Other commissioners are Prof Jane Onsongo and Ms Irene Keino.

A day before Mr Kiplagat of Kipkenda and Company Advocates dispatched the letter to Mr Matemu, the building’s managing agents, Tegus Limited, also sent out a notice to the commission.

“We have been instructed by our principals, landlord of Integrity Centre building, to inform you and we do hereby notify you that the landlord does not wish to renew the current lease with yourselves when the same expires on June 30,” a letter dated February 17, 2015 and signed by Mr C.M. Chege says.

The lease agreement seen by the Sunday Nation was signed between the Deposit Protection Fund and the liquidated Trust Finance Ltd, to house the commission and was signed on October 19, 2010 for a period of five years.

According to the lease agreement, Integrity Centre is owned by Revack, whose title deed was charged to Trust Finance Limited, owners of Trade Bank, for a loan.

During the period of the lease, the anti-corruption commission was to pay a rent of Sh2,784,164 monthly plus Sh370,378 as service charge, Sh88,200 (closed parking bays), Sh79,800 (open parking bays) every month paid quarterly.

However, Sunday Nation could not establish at what stage Integrity Centre, whose value is estimated to be as much as Sh4 billion, changed hands between Deposit Protection Fund, Trust Finance Limited and Revack, the original owners of the land — a company associated with Kanu-era minister Biwott.

Mr Alnoor Kassam, a businessman associated with the collapsed Trade Bank who fled Kenya to Canada when the bank was liquidated in the early 1990s, has also previously laid claim to the building.

But sources within the Central Bank of Kenya intimated that DPF sold Integrity Centre building after 21 years of holding it in trust to pay depositors.

Mr Matemu said they were was investigating the people behind the deal.

“We are investigating several issues about this building (Integrity Centre). Key among them is who bought it? Why are they busy defaming the commission? Can’t you even see the timing itself?” Mr Matemu told the Sunday Nation on the phone.

Mr Matemu was non-committal on whether four months would be adequate time for the commission to find a new home.

However, we have learnt that one option the commission was considering was the new NSSF building near the Integrity Centre.