The Ministry of Education has put the management of the National Land Commission (NLC) on the spot over payment of Sh1.5 billion for the purchase of land for two public schools in Ruaraka, Nairobi, without securing its title deeds.
Education PS Belio Kipsang told the Senate that despite writing to the NLC to ensure that payments be made to Afrison Import and Export Limited and Huelands Limited subject to securing instruments of ownership, the commission paid out the money without getting hold of title documents.
Dr Kipsang appeared before senators who are inquiring into the compulsory acquisition of 13.534 hectares of land on which Ruaraka High School and Drive-Inn Primary school stand at a total cost of Sh3.2 billion.
The ministry, through the NLC in January paid out Sh1.5 billion to Whispering Farms Limited, a company associated with businessman Francis Mburu.
The government, through the NLC compulsorily acquired 13.5 acres to secure the interest of Ruaraka High School and Drive Inn Primary School, which were built 34 and 32 years ago on private land.
“When we released the money to the NLC for compulsory acquisition of the schools land, I wrote to them informing them that it was important that before they release the money, they must ensure that they are in possession of instruments of ownership,” Dr Kipsang told the committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang.
He said the NLC, as per its constitutional mandate had the technical competence to confirm the ownership documents for the land in question.
“Ours was to ensure that the NLC secures the interest of the schools and the constitutional commission was to acquire the land based on its mandate,” said Dr Kipsang.
He said he was surprised to learn that the NLC purchased 13.77 acres of land instead of 13.534 acres resulting in an overpayment of Sh68 million.
Dr Kipsang was, however, hard-pressed to explain why he disregarded a report of a technical committee that was headed by Nairobi Region coordinator of education John Ololtua, which concluded that the owner did not have the right to seek compensation because Drive Inn Estate, the firm that initially owned the land had surrendered about seven acres for public utility.
The PS said when he received the special report, he sought Attorney General’s legal opinion.
“I wrote and forwarded that report to the AG for a legal opinion. When I received a bill from NLC saying they require Sh3.2 billion for compensation, I brought the same to the attention of Treasury PS Dr Kamau Thugge,” said Dr Kipsang.
Lands Cabinet secretary Farida Karoney acknowledged that the purchase of the land was not done properly.
“The Ministry has however moved to register a caveat on the land to protect public interest. I agree that we should have managed this acquisition better. We should have followed a better process,” Ms Karoney said.
Prof Karega Mutahi, the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Technical Relations Committee, the successor of the Transition Authority, told the Senate that the land in question is captured as assets of Nairobi City County government.
“Analysis indicates the land in question has been captured as assets of the county. I want to table a report that validated assets and liabilities of Nairobi, which is among 32 counties that have sent to us their validated list of assets and liabilities,” he said.