President Uhuru Kenyatta’s nominees to the National Land Commission (NLC), whose vetting by the National Assembly began Thursday, face the arduous task of cleaning up and streamlining the commissions if approved. The nine commissioners will serve for a non-renewable, six-year term.
The tenure of the pioneer commissioners under the new constitution ended in February, but it was dogged by infighting, inefficiency and corruption scandals, among others.
Thursday, Mr Gershom Otachi, nominated to replace the disgraced Muhamad Swazuri as chairman, told the MPs that he would ensure that key transactions such as compensation for land, property allotment, and lease renewals are conducted in the most transparent manner.
“We will work as efficiently as possible within the law and the Constitution to ensure that the right decisions are implemented with the right people and the right staff in the right places at the commission,” Mr Otachi, who said his net worth is Sh200 million, told the House Committee on Land.
Mr Otachi is the chairman of the Geothermal Development Company (GDC), a state corporation that was mired in corruption scandals before he joined it four years ago, and has since helped to transform the growth of its asset base to over Sh100 billion.
He also served as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s counsel at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) and a long-serving Defence Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
During his vetting, the committee chaired by Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai was thrown into confusion after the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) issued contradictory information about his tax-compliance status.
Whereas he presented a tax compliance certificate showing that he had cleared with the taxman as at June 12, 2019, and even up to June 12, 2020, details presented to the committee by KRA Commissioner for Domestic Taxes Edward Mbugua indicated otherwise.
The issue prompted Dr Nyamai to summon KRA Commissioner General James Mburu to appear before the committee to clarify the matter.
Apart from Mr Otachi, former Egerton University Vice-Chancellor James K Tuitoek, former Nyeri MP Esther Murugi, and former Kaloleni MP Kazungu Kambi were also vetted.
Prof Tuitoek, with a net worth of Sh145 million, denied claims he irregularly benefitted from the 900-acre Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) land in Magarini, in Kilifi County. This came after a Mr Kazungu Ng’andu filed a sworn affidavit in Parliament contesting his suitability.
He said he was not the James C Tuitoek was listed among the beneficiaries of the ADC land.
Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo wondered why Ms Murugi, who is worth Sh320 million, wants the public service job so badly despite her age, saying that there are many qualified young women who can do the job well. But Ms Murugi 66, defended her nomination, saying she feels young enough to continue serving the country.