How ministry ignored report and paid Sh1.5 billion for land

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed after she appeared before the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee at Parliament Buildings yesterday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Ministry of Education paid Sh1.5 billion for the Ruaraka land despite being advised that it was public property.

In the disclosure that turns the spotlight on top ministry officials and the National Land Commission (NLC) for paying an individual for Government land, the State wired the money to Whispering Palms Estate Ltd – owned by businessman Francis Mburu – as part of a Sh3.2 billion payment on January 30 against a report that a task force made available to the ministry on February 3 last year.

Yesterday, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed told the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee that there were glaring anomalies in the acquisition process.

Amina said the recommendations by the five-member team should have been adhered to, in an apparent indictment of her predecessor Fred Matiang'i (now Interior CS) and Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang.

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Factual report

“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," she said.

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.

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“The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education (MoE) in liaison with Chairman, National Land Commission to facilitate for processing of the title deeds of the said public schools to have the matter settled once and for all."

The team further recommended that the ministry and NLC should hasten the processing of the schools' land ownership papers to protect them from grabbing or encroachment.

“The Official Receiver and Liquidator, Mr Paul Omondi Mbago, should release the school land document,” the report added.

The team further indicated that there was no document that showed there should have been any compensation to any claimant.

But Amina told the committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang' that the ministry was yet to receive the title deeds for the land.

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The report is consistent with what Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko told the Senate team, that the contested property was for public utility.

Amina further faulted NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri for initiating the acquisition of the land contrary to the law that requires that the acquiring body initiate the process.

The task force was constituted after Prof Swazuri wrote to Dr 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.

Wrote back

In March 17 last year, Matiang'i wrote back to Swazuri for the commission to kick off the process of acquiring the land.

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“This process should have ordinarily been initiated by the ministry or by the locals if the owner went to court. The law is clear on that,” said Amina.

The Public Accounts and Investment Committee further queried the urgency in the allocation of funds for the land acquisition through a supplementary budget, saying it was suspiciously rushed.

“For some reasons, we could raise Sh1.5 billion at a time Kenya Revenue Authority was struggling to raise funds,” said Mr Kajwang’.

In her response, Amina said she would have not allocated money for the acquisition through a supplementary budget.

“I don’t consider it to be an emergency. There was a team that was already sent to the ground. The report was seen when the acquisition process had been initiated," she said.

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Ministry of EducationspotSh1.5bpublic propertyRuaraka land