Yes! SGR land compensation needs fresh audit

Sunday December 13 2015

Public Investment Committee (PIC) Chairperson Adan Keynan at the committee sitting where suspended Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau appeared for questioning on April 29, 2015. Indeed, PIC demanded a fresh audit of the compensation of land owners whose plots were taken over by the corporation. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Parliamentary Public Investment Committee (PIC) Chairperson Adan Keynan at the committee sitting where suspended Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau appeared for questioning on April 29, 2015. Indeed, PIC demanded a fresh audit of the compensation of land owners whose plots were taken over by the corporation. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KWENDO OPANGA
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On December 2, the Daily Nation reported that the parliamentary Public Investments Committee (PIC) had raised the red flag over the compensation paid out by Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) for land acquired for the construction of standard gauge railway.

Indeed, PIC demanded a fresh audit of the compensation of land owners whose plots were taken over by the corporation.

PIC said there was a likelihood taxpayers were losing billions of shillings to persons to whom land that previously belonged to KRC had been parcelled out.

A draft report of an audit of the SGR land compensation process by KRC and the National Land Commission (NLC) is a catalogue of misuse, misallocation, and downright abuse of public resources.

The report records in its summary:

– Disbursement of land compensation to the wrong people amounting to Sh3,584,992; irregular PAPs (People Affected by Project) compensation at Manyani and Mbololo; and incomplete PAPs details in the NLC master list;

– Differing PAPs names between NLC master schedules and KRC payment schedules; PAPs names in KRC payment schedules but NOT in NLC schedule involving Sh11,337,871; and PAPs overpayment between NLC schedule and KRC schedule involving Sh9,811,325;

– Lack of land valuation reports; equivalent compensations for differing sizes of acquired land parcels; inconsistency between physical land sizes; and their corresponding recorded measurements at Kathekani;

– Subjective sisal plantation valuation showing a variance of Sh337,264,751; over-valued compensations; and unexplained duplication and over-payments totalling up to Sh1,097,545.

Regarding the irregular compensations at Manyani and Mbololo, the report records a startling discovery that buttresses PIC’s fears: “At Manyani, we noted that permanent structures, earlier earmarked for demolition for being illegally built on Kenya Railway Reserves, were compensated during the acquisition process.”

CONFLICTING REPORTS
The report says that KRC had “allocated land at Manyani to Tenants under Temporary Occupation Leases (TOL) whereby the tenants were supposed to erect temporary structures and not permanent ones because the said land could be required by the corporation at short notice.”

A total of Sh22,902,825 was paid out as compensation.

According to the report, the names of 36 PAPs who were compensated for developments at Manyani do not appear in KRC’s list of TOL tenants.

The corporation’s data base shows 57 tenants were allocated land at Manyani, but the NLC list shows 78 PAPs were compensated.

The 36 PAPs who could not be traced in KRC’s TOL records were paid Sh61,578,705.

This prompted the authors of the report to recommend “further investigation into the circumstances which led to the irregular compensations with the objective of recovery.’’

Surprisingly, 16 PAPs who were compensated had only one name entered in the relevant documents and 14 others are entered as unknown.

To this the report simply says: “Insufficient PAPs details may create a loophole where undeserving PAPs are irregularly introduced in the system and subsequently paid irregular compensation.”

Regarding the difference in the particulars of the PAPs as recorded in the NLC and KRC schedules the audit team reported that it was “not able to give assurance whether legitimate PAPs were recipients/beneficiaries of the compensations.”

It recommended that management assures that non-deserving people were not compensated.

The audit team recorded a serious anomaly where PAPs appearing on KRC compensation payment schedules could not be traced on the NLC schedules yet it is the latter that “originates all the PAPs names before the payment process is initiated.’’

NEW AUDIT NECESSARY

Therefore the team could not give assurance on the genuineness of nine such PAPs involved in the Sh11,337,871 compensation payout.

Curiously, some 16 plots of different sizes, ranging from 0.045 acres to 0.0174, were all compensated for Sh1,293,750.

The audit team explains that “they were similar in the sense that they were all undeveloped and covered by bushy shrubs” and, therefore, the compensation award process was subjective.

Last, but certainly not least, the audit team found that “public utilities land which was set aside by the Makueni County Government for a stadium, primary schools, a slaughter house and cemetery were allocated to PAPs irregularly and the subsequent compensation was paid to them instead of Makueni County Government.”

The amount paid out was Sh43,043,316.

There is more, but the foregoing provides reason enough for the PIC’s demand for a new audit of the SGR land compensation to be carried out.