KIST land tussle continues as trustees and board of governors fight

Police officer keep guard at the gate of Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology(KIST) following a violent protests by the students.The students were demonstrating against alleged grabbing of the institute's land,high school fees and congestion in the students hotel. [PHOTO: KAMAU MAICHUHIE].

The recent surrender of land by Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) Board of Trustees to the Board of Governors has opened the lid on the ongoing protracted battle over the control of the institute’s assets 

The two groups have not been seeing eye to eye over the management of the institute’s assets including land, which they have been tussling over.

Interestingly, the trustees handed over only one and a half acres out of 196 acres owned by the institute.

Last year, reports emerged that an entity named The Registered Trustees of Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology had allegedly taken over the college’s assets including land.

Speaking when he handed over the land to the Board of Management recently, the Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman Kimani Mathu refuted the claims, saying they were only the custodian of the institute’s assets.

Mr Mathu said the land surrendered will be used for the construction of the four storey tuition block with a capacity of hosting 1,500 students.

“The handing over ceremony for the land shows the two boards have only one main objective which is to make the institute grow, a thing we will never depart from,” he said.

He denied the trustees had taken over the property of the institute, saying according to the law, the trustees are the custodians of the physical assets while the management is the manager of the assets including the college.

“The matter has been sorted out and had been addressed in various forums among them the Office of the President and National Assembly. There was consensus that the BoT is the custodian of the physical assets while the board of management is the manager of the assets,” said Mr Mathu.

He added the BoT had been the custodian of the institute’s land measuring 196 acres for the last 48 years during which time not even an inch has been alienated for any other purposes, contrary to some reports.

However, in a swift turn of events, the chairman of the institute’s Board of Governors, Dr Kamau Kariu, yesterday disowned the move by trustees to hand over only one and a half acres instead of the entire land to the Board of Governors.

Dr Kariu confirmed there has been a protracted battle over the control of the entire land pitting the two groups.

He said they have been trying to reverse the registration of the land back to the college to no avail, adding that there has been a lot of interference and obstacles from some Government agencies and powerful forces that he declined to name.

The chairman said in their bid to have the land registered back in school’s name, they went to the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua who in turn referred them to Attorney General Paul Kihara for a legal opinion.

“The AG’s legal opinion dater October 12, 2018 is very clear that the trustees should hand over back the land to the institute. He has clearly stipulated that according to the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Act 2013, all properties should be in the name of the institute and be managed by the Board of Governors and that there is no role of the trustees,” said Dr Karau.

The TVET Act, whose date of commencement was June 2013, vests management and ownership of the public assets in the Board of Governors. KIST is yet to be registered afresh under the TVET ACT, 2013 since it has no land under its name.

He said BoM through their lawyer wrote to the trustees a demand letter telling them to transfer back the land to the institute within 14 days but the trustees wrote back, saying they would not transfer it since they do not respect the TVET Act.

Dr Kariu said the BoG decided to take the one and a half acres to construct a tuition block in order to accommodate the high population of students since last year when the Government made technical education affordable.

The BoG chairman said the standoff has stalled a Sh1 billion project funded by the German government.

“The German government is demanding that for it to give the grant, the land should be in the name of the institute. The expansion was supposed to have started early last year but it has stalled,” he said.

Last month, while addressing residents in Kiambu town, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was aware of the wrangles pitting the two groups at  the  institution.

“We want to solve this small problem of KIST’s leadership so that in the New Year, we can use the money to expand the institute,” said Uhuru.