EACC probes ex-housing boss over Sh870m fraud

By Moses Michira

NAIROBI, KENYA: Former National Housing Corporation (NHC) Managing Director James Ruitha is under investigation over a land transaction worth Sh870 million.

The transaction involves acquisition of a parcel of land in Kitengela on behalf of the parastatal. Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is investigating the purchase of the 150-acre parcel of land, which Mr Ruitha is alleged to have irregularly procured on behalf of the State-owned agency.

EACC is also investigating the former NHC managing director over fraudulent allocation of houses developed by the State-owned institution, with top executives including Ruitha taking more than half of the new units that had been built.

It is claimed that Ruitha colluded with a Mr James Mburu in the single-sourced procurement that is believed to have denied NHC and the State value for money.

“Alleged fraudulent purchase of land by the managing director of National Housing Corporation Mr James Ruitha in collusion with Mr James Mburu where the corporation entered into direct purchase of 150 acres of land at an exaggerated cost,” read part of a report from the EACC.

It was not immediately possible to determine whom the said Mburu was. Ruitha, however, said he had not been approached by EACC, but acknowledged that NHC had acquired the land in his tenure as the CEO.

“I am not aware of the investigation because EACC has not questioned me,” Ruitha said in a telephone interview.

Housing minister Soita Shitanda sacked Ruitha, alongside several other senior executives last July over the fraudulent allocation of houses where some officials took up to 21 units.

Deep rot

Housing PS Tirop Kosgey said an investigation into the allocations is not yet complete. The twin investigations point to grand corruption and deep rot at the NHC, the State agency mandated with tackling severe housing problem, but has largely remained irrelevant to the public.

In NHC’s latest housing projects, a home sold for between Sh8 million and Sh10 million, which is way beyond the reach of even the best paid workers in Kenya. The agency is now planning to roll out massive low-cost housing schemes in major towns from March using pre-fabricated panels.