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Surveyors on the spot for abetting Sh30b land fraud

By Mwangi Muiruri | May 21st 2020

Lands CS Farida Karoney (R) consults her PS Nicholas Muraguri when they appeared before the National Assembly Lands Committee at Continental House, Nairobi on March 20, 2018. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kenya’s economy loses an estimated Sh30 billion annually due to land fraud facilitated by corrupt and quack surveyors, Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri has said.

The amount includes what the government loses inland rates, expenses in costly court cases and investment opportunities lost when the disputed land lies idle. 

Dr Muraguri said the figure reflects “one of the many from the economy hence denying the country the much-needed capital to improve quality of lives for its subjects”.

To mitigate this loss, he said the Lands ministry has commenced an elaborate move to digitise survey details in a way that will be easy to track all those who will attempt to execute fraudulent survey works.

“We are awake to the reality that we must equip and operationalise our new Geospatial Data Centre at the Survey of Kenya (SoK) headquarters in Nairobi,” the PS told Home & Away.

“That is the only way we can be sure that we are up to the task of cleaning and reorganising our survey records.” 

The PS said the Department of Survey cannot afford to continue doing things the same old way in the face of rapidly changing technology as well as in the threat of techno-savvy crooks out to make a quick buck. 

“This will go hand in hand with cleaning the register of survey practitioners to beat the habit where every Tom, Dick and Harry are putting up survey shops and kiosks across the country,” he said.

Muraguri said the move will not only sound the death knell for land crooks, “but will also help the government maximise tax revenues by managing registration and rate billings”.

Applying shortcuts

He blamed many developers in the country for applying shortcuts in procuring survey services with a clear intent to corrupt the process.

Outgoing Director of Surveys Cesare Mbaria said the surveyors’ profession should do all it takes to hound out quacks masquerading as authorities in surveying.

“Every department concerned has been directed to come up with its measures to evade blame on the leak brought about by land crooks. I have my role to play as the head of this department,” he told Home & Away.

“The ministry had in 2014 issued a circular through the Land Surveyors Board warning all of our registered surveyors that they play true to the professional ethics. We must safeguard the reputation of the survey profession,” he said.

Mr Mbaria said the trick many surveyors use to progress fraud in the sector was submitting incomplete supporting documents such as letters of allotment and development plans, leading to delays in correspondence with licensed surveyors and other relevant departments.

A member of the National Land Commission, Esther Murugi, says the survey department is critical in land management since it is the one that gives real data on acreage.

“In dealing with the issue of the survey, we are talking of a very critical component of land management. If it gets corrupt at the surveys department, the rot spills all the way down to land dealings,” she told Home & Away.

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