The Ministry of Land is on the spotlight over a syndicate of irregular renewal of leases of land to Del Monte Kenya Limited.
This comes after it emerged that officials from the ministry could not even tell the total acreage that the fruit farm has in Murang’a.
Appearing before the National Assembly Lands Committee Tuesday, Land and Physical Planning Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Gideon Mung’aro said that files at the ministry show that the American company has 2,900 acres of land (LR No. 12158) in Murang’a County.
But documents tabled before the committee chaired by Dr Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South) by a petitioner show that Del Monte has more than 22,000 acres of land.
Kandara Residents Association has petitioned the National Assembly to have the international food processing firm surrender all the land for local use, a petition the committee is considering.
The failure by the ministry to confirm the total acreage under the firm’s activities forced the committee to direct a new survey be conducted within a month.
“As a ministry, I would be very worried that it is work in progress…that you don’t know the acreage under Del Monte. It is ordered that you undertake a new survey of the LR No. 12158 within a month to enable us conclude this matter and present a report to the House,” Dr Nyamai said.
Dr Nyamai’s directive came after Mr Charles Githenya, the deputy director of land administration at the ministry admitted that he could not tell the exact acreage of the land.
“We cannot guess unless we go back to the files,” Mr Githenya said when questioned on Del Monte’s total acreage.
This is despite the fact that a copy of the petition was sent to the ministry in good time to prepare a response to the committee.
Normally, before presenting a response, the ministry was obligated to establish the acreage of the land in question.
On the irregular renewal of land leases under Del Monte domain, though Mr Mung’aro admitted that the ministry has extended the leases, he said the extension is subject to the approvals by the Murang’a County government and the National Land Commission.
It also appeared that the ministry could not provide to the committee the details of the leases renewed for the last two years with the CAS requesting for more time to compile the required data.
Kandara Residents Association Chairman Philip Kamau told the committee that they had evidence that the firm is only using 7,000 acres while the remaining 15,000 are idle.
In pushing their claim, the association wants to be allocated 8,000 acres which members said were irregularly taken from them by the firm in the early 1960s.
“The evidence we have is that the firm has been using thousands of acres acquired illegally since documents available show that the land in question is publicly owned,” Mr Kamau said.
But the committee took issue with the framing of the petition which members noted did not represent the facts tabled by the association’s chairman.
Dr Nyamai noted that the association cannot prove whether the Murang’a County government had indeed renewed the lease in favour of Del Monte.
It also emerged that the Kiambu County government has renewed 8,000 acres of land leasehold to Del Monte for another 99 years with the firm surrendering 635 acres to the county.
The American company holds over 22,000 acres in Murang’a and Kiambu counties.
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and the Del Monte boss signed a memorandum of understanding confirming the lease.