Water PS Korir put on the spot over Sh14m dam land

Water Principal Secretary Julius Korir when he appeared before a Parliamentary Committee. [David Njaaga, Standard]

A parliamentary team is investigating how the Water Department irregularly acquired land in Narok for construction of a multi-million-shilling dam.

The National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday questioned Principal Secretary Julius Korir on why the government had given the greenlight for construction of the dam yet it had no ownership documentation for the parcel of land worth Sh14 million.

The committee chaired by John Mbadi was also shocked to learn that the department had transferred the obligation of land acquisition to the contractor, who was to undertake the dam project at a cost of Sh374.4 million.

Mr Mbadi pressed Mr Korir to explain why the department had entrusted the land acquisition to the contractor yet that was the mandate of the National Lands Commission.

“The government is notorious for sourcing loans to do projects on land they do not own. Help this committee understand how you went ahead to acquire the land on grounds that the contractor would get into negotiations for the land. What if the owner turns down the offer?” he asked. 

Bura MP Yakub Adow sought to know why the project’s completion had stalled for three years given that it was commenced in December 2020 and it is only 70 per cent complete. 

Subukia MP Samuel Gachobe wondered why the department bypassed the NLC and chose to directly engage the land owner. “Where did you get the mandate to direct that the contractor engages with the owner on behalf of government?” he asked. These sentiments were shared by Mathioya MP Edwin Mugo.

In his response, Korir told the MPs that the ministry had written to NLC seeking direction on how to proceed.

He explained that the department had forwarded documents to the lands commission including an agreement from the lawyer signed by the Community Based Organisation (CBO) and the seller, Registration Certificate of the CBO, Account details of the CBO, Copies of KRA Certificates for the CBO and the seller, Copy of Land Title Deed, Copy of Official Search and a Copy of the seller’s ID.

“The ministry has written to the NLC seeking guidance on purchase of the land in question with the possibility of moving forward to purchasing the land in which the dam and the tanks have been constructed. So far the work is 75 percent done as per the progress report.”

The irregular dealing involving the project land had been flagged  by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu in her 2021/2022 financial year report. She noted that whereas the ministry had been awarded a tender for the construction of a small dam including the construction of an 8-metre-high embankment small dam, the department proceeded without having acquired the land ownership documents.

Gathungu also observed that despite the issuance of the contract on December 7, 2020 an audit inspection in the month of July, 2022 revealed that the Project was 40 percent complete and therefore the contractor was behind schedule. The ministry had however already paid Sh145,609,534 to the contractor.

“…however, inspection of the project revealed that, at the time of commencement, the land owner(s) had not legally transferred the said parcels of lands to the Ministry and the sale agreements between the Ministry and the vendors were not provided for review. Thus, title ownership of the parcels of land on which the dam was to be constructed could not be confirmed,” stated the Auditor General. 

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