Lands Secretary Charity Ngilu has pre-empted a report by a joint parliamentary committee by revoking the controversial appointment of Mr Peter Kang’ethe Kahuho as the acting director-general of lands.
A preliminary report by the Lands and Delegated Legislations joint committee, which is to be tabled before Parliament on Wednesday for discussion and adoption, says that Mrs Ngilu breached the law by appointing Mr Kahuho to a position that does not exist in law.
The Sunday Nation has established that the joint parliamentary committee has recommended that Mrs Ngilu de-gazette the appointment, something she has now done before the tabling of the report.
The rushed revocation signed by Mrs Ngilu on Thursday is contained in Friday’s Gazette Notice No 14101 and cancels the notice published in a special issue of Kenya Gazette dated October 10 that appointed Mr Kahuho, a former Coast Province Lands Officer.
The cabinet secretary had also purportedly given Mr Kahuho the powers to sign title deeds, a role that previously belonged to Lands Secretary Zablon Mabea, whose former position of commissioner of lands no longer exists in the Constitution.
“The Public Service Commission has confirmed to the joint committees that the position conflicts with the newly established National Land Commission (NLC). It actually does not exist in the constitution,” said Kirinyaga Central MP Joseph Gitari, who is the vice-chairman of the Delegated Legislations committee.
NLC also appeared before the MPs and rejected the appointment of a director-general of lands. It said its chairman, Dr Mohammed Swazuri, and chief executive Tom Chavangi had the powers to sign title deeds.
The joint Parliamentary Committee on Lands and Delegated Legislation led by Mr Alex Muiru and Mr William Cheptumo has in the past week grilled Mrs Ngilu, NLC and senior government officials over illegal appointments at the ministry.
Last week, Sunday Nation reported that the appointment of Mr Kahuho and suspension of Mr Mabea from signing title deeds could be linked to the suspected illegal transfer of prime land in Nairobi belonging to the Kuwaiti Government.
Mrs Ngilu’s move comes as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is said to be studying documents from the Lands ministry in an investigation of those alleged to have been involved in the transfer of the Kuwaiti land.
According to highly placed sources in EACC and the Lands ministry, investigations had spread to top ministry officials, including Mrs Ngilu, to ascertain any acts of commission and omission in the transaction. Those found culpable risk being charged with abuse of office.
Also being investigated are two individuals (names withheld) who are not employees of the ministry but who are allegedly being used by top ministry officials to “move around” sensitive land transaction files and are the link to the fraudsters.
The revelations come as the joint parliamentary committee said it received fresh petitions over the Kuwaiti Government land and a move by suspected fraudsters to hive off deceased, 200 acres from land belonging to Numerical Machines, a state body, in Athi River.
“Apart from the two land transactions, ministry officials were in the process of allegedly transferring another land; registration number 24573 in Athi River. These are issues the joint committees will interrogate in the coming week,” Mr Gitari told the Sunday Nation.
In the Kuwaiti land saga, the scheme involves a plot with a house on Mkoko Close in Westlands, whose ownership was allegedly illegally transferred by well-connected individuals, who later turned around to sue the government when the ministry revoked the title.
Documents in our possession show the Lands ministry admits it has no record of any transfer of the land to Shimoni Resorts Ltd and two other companies.
Shimoni Resorts Ltd, which was cited in Parliament last year as having irregularly assumed ownership of the disputed land, is now in court demanding Sh2.3 billion in compensation from the government. The sum includes Sh1.6 billion in “loss of profits for the expected development”.
In an interview with Sunday Nation, lawyer Njoroge Nani Mungai, a director of Shimoni Resorts, maintained that he was an innocent buyer of property caught up in a mess not of his making, and he therefore deserves compensation.
“We did our due diligence and got on the authority of no less an institution than the ministry of Lands. Several years later, the same ministry claims that it has cancelled our title. At the very least, we deserve compensation; our investment cannot just be taken away.”
But in a legal opinion that has raised eyebrows, the office of the Attorney-General has written to the Lands ministry, advising an out-of- court settlement, with suggestions that Shimoni Resorts Ltd should retain the land and possibly receive compensation.
Documents seen by Sunday Nation show that EACC Deputy Secretary Michael Mubea cautions Mrs Ngilu against entering consent in court over the Kuwaiti land transaction.
Mr Mubea has confirmed that they are investigating the transaction. “We write to request you not to record any consent in court that will expose the government to any liability arising from this transaction,” says Mr Mubea, in a letter to Mrs Ngilu dated October 11.
Mrs Ngilu in her reply dated October 18, says the property belongs to Kuwait Government. “I have had an opportunity to hold a meeting with the Attorney-General on September 2, 2013 where the matter was under discussion.
I have also had a meeting with Kuwait ambassador on the same on September 9, 2013. From the information we have, I have every reason to believe that the said property belongs to the Embassy of Kuwait,” said Mrs Ngilu.
The person who signed on behalf of Sheikh al-Jabir is alleged to have worked with a former commissioner of lands to effect the transfer to Koibarak Trading Company.