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House of corruption

By - | Sep 6th 2012 | 6 min read
By - | September 6th 2012
NHC’s housing estate in upmarket Kileleshwa. [PHOTOS: WILBERFORCE OKWIRI / STANDARD]

While National Housing Corporation slogan is ‘Housing for the Nation’ and with a vision for decently housed nation, malpractices at the corporation by top officials has ensured this remains nothing but a fantasy, writes HAROLD AYODO

Grand corruption on allocation of houses by the National Housing Corporation (NHC) is a nightmare that the country still struggles to fathom.

For years, the corporation has continually sparked controversy following misallocation or allocation of houses shrouded in secrecy.

Recently, Housing minister Soita Shitanda was dragged in a major scandal after his wife Betty was allegedly allocated a house irregularly in Kakamega.

Housing assistant minister Margret Wanjiru was also soiled before Shitanda absolved both of them for wrongdoing arguing they were allocated single units as any other deserving Kenyan.

Shitanda also gave a clean bill of health to the acting head of the Public Service Francis Kimemia among other senior public servants allegedly allocated houses in Kileleshwa.

Nevertheless, Shitanda sent home senior NHC officials including NHC the then board chairman Ogeto Bosire and managing director James Ruitha over gross malpractices.

Evicted out

Financial Manager Manasseh Wandabwa, Administration and Legal Affairs Manager Elizabeth Mbugua were also ‘evicted’ out of the corporation.

Ogeto is alleged to have been allocated five housing units, Ruitha four, while Mbugua had a whooping 21 housing units in various NHC projects countrywide.

“The decision to sack the officers was made after an audit by the Efficiency Monitoring Unit,” Shitanda said after sending the officials home.

He said that the Inspectorate of State Corporations had indicted the officers for mishandling allocations of houses.

“An appropriate action against the officers will be taken once the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) completes its investigation,” Shitanda says.

But Home & Away has since established that housing scandals within NHC are deep rooted.

An exclusive NHC in-house report in possession of Home & Away reveals the depth of the rot that has unfairly denied thousands of deserving Kenyans from buying houses from the corporation in decades.

The report, Distortions in House Allocation: Report of House Allocation Process at the National Housing Corporation by the Board Audit Committee makes a painful and compelling read.

NHC board audit committee chairman Reginald Okumu and its members Wilson Maina, Alice Mwololo and Said Athman Mtwana prepared the report.

The audit committee commenced the probe following a NHC board meeting on December 9; last year raised a red flag on flaws on allocation of houses.

According to the detailed report that traces allocations of houses over the past decade, graft at the corporation is deep rooted.

Ironically, the slogan of the ISO 9001:2008 Certified Corporation is Housing for the Nation, vision is a decently housed nation.

The committee selected eight housing schemes out of 25 for analysis in six counties. The selected schemes comprised 830 units from March 2004 to date.

“Challenges of the NHC seem to have evolved into a culture where few benefit at the expense of more deserving Kenyans,” says the report.

Legally, NHC is a statutory?body whose primary mandate is to play a principal role in the implementation of the Government’s housing polices and programmes.

Civil society organisations that champion the course for economic and social rights as envisaged in the Constitution want the NHC disbanded following a history of graft.

Major uproar

For instance, Hakijamii, an economic and social rights centre, executive director Odindo Opiata says the enactment of a new national legislation on housing should be expedited.

“This is a wakeup call…the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to adequate and accessible housing,” Opiata says.

Opiata says that new institutions for housing delivery should be established to replace the NHC.

“It is also instructive that under the devolved system, the primary duty of delivery is now vested on county governments,” Opiata argues.

Opiata says that clear normative standards and institutional arrangements for publicly funded housing programmes should be underpinned in the new law.

“In built accountability and transparency systems should form part of new legislation to ensure public resources are used for intended purposes,” Opiata says.

According to the exclusive NHC in-house report, a whooping 78 staff (out of 260) has multiple allocations of 209 houses.

“A senior staff has seven houses in her name, while 14 others are allocated to her relatives,” says the report.

Going by sampling of eight housing schemes countrywide, over 50 per cent of allocations go to people who never meet minimum requirements.

Furthermore, more than a quarter of the public that applies for the houses are never allocated even after meeting the benchmarks.

More shocking is that up to 20 per cent of housing units in various schemes are reserved for NHC staff.

Additionally, ten per cent of units in every scheme were reserved as ‘special cases’ to be allocated at the discretion of the managing director.

“Names of high level personalities would be stated as opposed to a completed application form, payment of deposit and meeting other requirements,” says the report.

The study named as ‘parachute allotees’ the big shots allocated housing units even without meeting the minimum threshold.

“The practice was highly irregular and arbitrary…it was not supported by any policy and ethics,” it says.

According to the report, allocation of houses in 1990 was by balloting for all applicants who met the basic criteria set out in media advertisements.

Between 1990 to 2000, allocations were by an internal committee referred to as Revenue Collection Sub-Committee on Estates. It used balloting after screening applicants.

However, on June 20, 1990, the then Housing Minister the late Darius Mbela requested the NHC managing director to allocate 47 houses to selected individuals.

This appears to have been the beginning of free for all grabbing among the corporation top honchos.

The first episode was the Kibera Highrise Housing Scheme. A record 61 units in Kibera Highrise Phase I and II were allocated to a Mr Otieno Odongo (21) and Pile Investments (40).

Another 479 units in the same scheme were allocated to the NSSF (215) and the Government (264).

The irregularities continued within the NHC’s Housing Allocation Committee in successive years when the chief estates officer listed himself as sole applicant for house No B179 at Jonathan Ng’eno estate in Nairobi.

Not even complaints of nepotism could forestall the greed of irregular allocation of houses at the expense of needy citizens.

For instance, the Board Audit Committee was recently informed of the gross misallocation of houses for Pumwani Schemes in Nairobi.

The case of the Pumwani Schemes ignited massive complaints from residents to the Board and both ministries of Lands and Housing that ordered investigations.

Consequently, the probe revealed that NHC senior management allocated themselves houses in the schemes meant for low-income slum dwellers.

The irregularities continued even up to last year when the Housing Allocation Committee held a meeting on July 8, last year to cut a deal for new flats in Nairobi’s Madaraka Estate.

The meeting purported to allow multiple allocations and placed an advertisement in the media that all units in Madaraka Sectors B to E had been sold.

According to the report, several allocations were done well before completion of designs, approval and commencement of construction of the houses.

These, among other litany of woes continues to dog the corporation even as the Housing minister promises to embark on measures to address weaknesses with respect to compliance with policy and ethical practice at the institution.



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