Matiang'i, Senate in bitter exchange over Sh3.2b Ruaraka land saga

Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee Chairman Moses Kajwang (L) and Narok Senator Ledama Olekina consult during the committee meeting at Parliament. [Boniface OkendoStandard]
A Cabinet secretary and a parliamentary committee chairman engaged in a war of words yesterday over the Sh3.2 billion Ruaraka land saga.

The bitter exchanges between Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee Chairman Moses Kajwang’ came on a day the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Directorate of Criminal Investigations engaged in a feud of their own over the same matter.

This highlights the intrigues that have shrouded the probe.

The long-running investigation has seen two Cabinet secretaries appear to indict Dr Matiang’i. This coupled with the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions has returned the file to EACC on three occasions, in the past two months, highlight the complex nature of the probe.

SEE ALSO :Did Swazuri-led Land commission deliver its mandate?

Yesterday, the committee called off a hearing after Matiang’i failed to turn up. The CS, through an aide, later said he was not aware of the invitation to appear before the MPs. He alleged a political scheme to drag his name into questionable dealings.

“There was no invite to the CS, and if they insist there was one tell them to show you the letter. Standing Orders also require that a witness is given at least seven days to appear, so even if the said letter was there they never gave him the required time,” said Interior Ministry Director of Communication Mwenda Njoka.

“This is a political scheme by people who are out to fight the CS. National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri said as much that there was a political scheme against the CS,” added Mr Njoka.

But Mr Kajwang’ insisted he wrote to the CS on July 27 and the letter was received by the Interior ministry. He said the committee would now write its report without Matiang’i’s input.

He said it was not the committee’s role “to follow the CS in funerals” so that he receives letters sent to his office.

“I don’t want to get into an exchange with the CS because I wrote the letter which was received and stamped by his office. If a CS decides to attend funerals the whole week, it is not our responsibility that he has not been in the office to read the letter,” said Kajwang.

Sanitise himself

“We invited him to allow him respond to what CS Amina said because he was adversely mentioned. And whoever is talking about a political scheme should have viewed the invite as an opportunity for him to sanitise himself because he was adversely mentioned,” the lawmaker added.

But last evening, Njoka said the letter was received at 4.30pm yet the CS had been expected to appear in the morning.

Last week, Amina accused Matiang’i and Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang of ignoring an internal report that advised against compensation for the land on grounds that it was surrendered for public utility.

“We have provided you with the report by our team. We provided it because we believe it is true and factual. These are the facts and the recommendations are there,” said Ms Amina, who succeeded Matiang’i at Jogoo House.

The task force under Nairobi Regional Co-ordinator of Education John Ololtuaa found that the land on which Ruaraka secondary and Drive-In primary schools were built was surrendered for public utility.

In its four-point recommendation, the task force advised the ministry not to make any payments.

“Having been a surrendered portion of land for public utility, the panel’s view was that the claimant has no basis for compensation for the land,” read the report.

Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney had also criticised the process as unprocedural in an apparent indictment of Education ministry officials and NLC.

Swazuri, Belio, Karoney, Amina, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Afrison Director Francis Mburu - who claims ownership of the land- have all appeared before two committees, multiple times.

It is, however, turning to be curious that Matiang’i has not appeared before the parliamentary committees to provide evidence to the school land acquisition despite being the one who wrote to Swazuri to initiate the process.

The first correspondence in the land acquisition came from Swazuri who wrote to Matiang’i on August 29, 2016, informing the ministry of complaints by Afrison and Huelands Ltd that the two schools had been occupying the land since 1984 and 1987 respectively.

And on March 17 last year, Matiang’i wrote to Swazuri asking him to start the process of acquiring the land for the two city schools.

DPP Noordin Haji instructed EACC to work closely with investigators from DCI when he recently referred the file back to Integrity Centre. But the two agencies are locked in a turf war.

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