Land rows stall Sh17m projects for five years

A stalled structure at Chebulu Conservancy. A dispute over land led for the stalling of the tourism project which in the financial year 2013/2014, the executive allocated Sh11M. [Photo: Courtesy]

Projects worth Sh17 million have been grounded due to unresolved disputes between the county and land owners.

The first to stall was Kiptere Sweet Potatoes Packaging and Processing Factory, whose groundbreaking was marked with fanfare five years ago.

Governor Paul Chepkwony and county executive committee members waxed lyrical about how the factory would connect sweat potato farmers in the area to markets in the United Kingdom.

The construction kicked off in 2014. Five years and Sh6 million down the road, not a single sweet potato has been exported to the UK from the factory.

Andrew Chirchir, the administrator of the one-acre piece of land on which the factory sits in Soin/Sigowet constituency, has vowed not to allow it to start operations until the county pays him Sh3 million for the land.

Original agreement

In the original agreement, the constituency was to buy 0.2 acres for the factory at Sh300,000 through the Constituency Development Fund. 

“Before the deal could go through, Governor Paul Chepkwony came to the farm and declared that the county was taking over and that it required the piece of land to be expanded to an acre so that it could accommodate the factory's physical planning,” claims Mr Chirchir. 

According to Chirchir, the county went ahead with the construction of the factory before concluding the formal purchase of the land.

“The county government has not paid a cent for the land,” said Chirchir. 

However, Governor Chepkwony accused Chirchir of hiking the price of the land in question from Sh1.5 million to Sh3 million.

Another costly row has also led to the stalling of Chebulu Conservancy, which is also in Soin/Sigowet constituency. In the financial year 2013/2014, the executive allocated the project Sh11 million.

But the project has stalled in the face of protests from landowners 

Nelly Chepkwony and Lina Langat were among the residents who were approached with an offer for their land for the project in 2014. The county started construction before finalising the purchase deal.

At the current land rates in the area, the county would have paid both landowners not less than Sh1.8 million for 12 acres. To date, both have not been paid a cent.

Mrs Langat said she regretted entering into the deal with the county.

“The county fenced off the piece of land. I cannot even reclaim it to plant maize or any other crop because half-complete structures now sit on it.”

But Timothy Kimei, the county public relations officer, said work on the project was halted to allow the land succession process to begin.

“Unfortunately as the project began, the original owner of the said parcel of land died, halting all the ongoing works to allow for the land succession process to begin.”

Due diligence

Gideon Mutai, the county attorney, said department heads ought to have conducted due diligence before the awarding of the tenders for the two projects.

“Those are departmental issues. I don’t have the full details but due diligence ought to have been done,” he said.

Calls and text messages to Barnabas Ng'eno, the county Lands executive, requesting his comments on the two disputes went unanswered.

Senator Aaron Cheruiyot issued a 14-day ultimatum to the county executive to provide an explanation for all funded projects that have stalled.

“If answers will not be forthcoming, the county assembly will be free to begin the process of sanctioning the specific officers who approved the projects,” said Mr Cheruiyot.

Assembly Speaker Dominic Rono and Leader of Majority Hezron Kipng'eno Ng'etich promised to take action against executive committee members responsible for the projects after the expiry of the 14-day ultimatum.