Nairobi mayor felled by graves scandal

Monday October 25 2010

FREDRICK ONYANGO | NATION The heartbreaking situation at Lang’ata cemetery, where babies are buried virtually one on top of the other.

FREDRICK ONYANGO | NATION The heartbreaking situation at Lang’ata cemetery, where babies are buried virtually one on top of the other.  

By DOMINIC WABALA, [email protected] and MATHIAS RINGA, [email protected]

Nairobi mayor Godfrey Majiwa will appear in court Tuesday morning to face two corruption charges relating to the Sh283 million cemetery saga.

Mr Majiwa was arrested in a dramatic early morning raid on his Akila estate home by detectives from the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

Also rounded up were Land Surveyor Cephas Kamande Mwaura and land valuer Boniface Misera.

The 7am arrest follows two unsuccessful attempts to apprehend the mayor. At one time, the graft watchdog was told that the mayor had travelled to China and was given proof to that effect, only for its intelligence network to establish that he had all along been in Kisumu.

The mayor was fingerprinted and quizzed at the Integrity Centre on Valley Road.

More than 10 Orange Democratic Movement councillors, including deputy mayor George Aladwa, walked to Integrity Centre in an apparent show of “solidarity” with the mayor. They were allowed into the second floor waiting room.

Mayor locked up

Some of the councillors and some supporters later went to Kilimani Police Station, where the mayor was locked up, in a futile attempt to have him freed on bail.

The graft watchdog’s spokesman Nicholas Simani said Mr Majiwa did not resist when anti-corruption detectives pounced on him at home.

He said the mayor would be charged with conspiracy to commit an offence under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act and with wilful neglect to perform official duty.

If he is charged with an economic crime, the law requires Mr Majiwa to step aside until the case is concluded.

“Investigations over the cemetery saga are still ongoing as we are digging for evidence to enable us prosecute other personalities involved in the scandal,” Mr Simani said.

Mr Majiwa joins more than 15 others who have been charged with fraud in connection with the purchase of the land, said to have been overpriced.

“Investigation established a well orchestrated fraud in which Nairobi City Council bought a parcel of land unsuitable for the purpose for which it was intended at a price of Sh283 million.

The price was far above the fair market value of land in similar locations. A report was compiled and forwarded to the Attorney General recommending that a number of suspects be charged with offences including breach of procurement laws and regulations, wilful neglect of duty and conspiracy to commit fraud against the public.

The file was returned with the Attorney General’s consent to proceed and charge the suspects,” Mr Simani said in a statement.

Others include suspended Local Government permanent secretary Sammy Kirui who has denied charges relating to the scandal, lawyers and former city council bosses.

The charges vary from conspiracy to defraud to fraudulent acquisition of public property and abuse of office.

Procurement for the cemetery land is suspected to have been infiltrated by middlemen working in cahoots with City Hall and government officials.

The conspirators are alleged to have inflated the cost of the land, hastened the release of the money, and paid the purported seller about a third of the quoted price before sharing the balance among themselves.

At all times, government procurement procedures were either bent or overlooked. According to the Controller and Auditor General’s report, the idea of buying cemetery land, preferably within Nairobi, was first broached at a City Hall meeting in May, 2005.

It came after it was realised the Lang’ata cemetery was running out of space.

When it failed to identify land within Nairobi, City Hall decided to extend the scope to the Nairobi metropolis, meaning such land could be obtained in adjoining districts such as Thika, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos, and Kangundo.