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PS nominees taken to task over land injustice, affordable housing

Lands and Physical Planning nominee Nixon Korir during his vetting at County Hall, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Stanard]

Vetting of President William Ruto’s Principal Secretary nominees resumed yesterday after the court struck out three petitions challenging the process.

Issues ailing the Lands ministry confronted former Lang’ata MP Nixon Korir, who has been nominated as principal secretary for the docket.

Historical land injustices, Sh18 billion pending bills, digitisation of land records and issue of squatters were raised during the former MP’s vetting by the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Lands at County Hall.

The committee led by North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko asked Mr Korir how he would implement the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission and Ndung’u land reports, which offer solutions to the country’s land problems but had not been implemented by previous regimes.

Korir, who declared that he is worth Sh284 million, said that lack of political goodwill had derailed implementation of the reports. “The issue of squatters has been accelerated by unfair distribution of land to prominent people at the expense of the poor. If approved by this committee, I will look at these reports and recommendations.”

Committee members Jane Kihara (Naivasha) and Gideon Ochanda (Bondo) were, however, concerned about the rot in the Lands ministry and sought to know how the nominee would address the matter.

“Within the first 100 days in office, I will order an audit of the land system to ensure all records have been digitised. That way I will put an end to land fraud, mostly aided by the use of a manual system,” said Korir.

The nominee promised to work with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to deal with unscrupulous land officials.

On pending bills, Korir said he would liaise with the Treasury and the Attorney General to ensure the money is paid.

Put up restaurant

Korir had a hard time convincing the committee that he was not involved in a scheme to hive off part of Uhuru Gardens. He admitted that he only put up a restaurant on the grounds before he was elected MP and the lease had since expired.

At the same time, Urban Development Principal Secretary nominee Charles Hinga told MPs that the Judiciary was used to disrupt the government plan to build affordable houses.

Appearing before the Housing and Urban Planning Committee, Mr Hinga claimed that 11 individuals used the courts to hinder the Uhuru government from raising funds to construct 500,000 housing units annually.      

The funds were to be raised by the government through a 1.5 per cent levy deducted from workers’ monthly salaries, but this was halted in 2018 by the courts.

“Unfortunately, the courts have never ruled in those cases filed separately at the Employment and Labour Relations Court, the Environment and Land Court, and Constitutional Review Court. The intention was purely to sabotage the rollout of the Housing Fund,” Hinga said.     

He urged MPs to draft laws allowing the ministry to set aside Sh1.2 trillion for construction of the houses.

“In the previous government, we only delivered 50,000 units a year. Of these, 49,000 or three per cent were delivered for top earners while 1,000 or 97 per cent went to the poor in slums,” said Hinga.

Basic Education Principal Secretary nominee Belio Kipsang, University Education Principal Secretary nominee Beatrice Inyangala, and Technical and Vocational Training Principal Secretary nominee Esther Muoria were also vetted by the Education Committee.