Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza faces the daunting prospect of paying Sh445,022,388.28 to a hotelier as compensation following a court ruling.
This is in addition to being saddled with a hefty Sh1.2 billion in pending bills.
The orders to pay Leopard Rock Mico Limited, which ran Leopard Rock Lodge in Meru National Park, emanated from lawsuit a filed during the reign of first county boss Peter Munya, which rolled over to the Kiraitu Murungi administration and has now been inherited by the current government.
On October 1, 2008, the Nyambene County Council and the lodge’s owner agreed to execute a lease, which was done on October 3.
But barely seven years later, hotelier Michael Dechauffour was served with an eviction notice in 2015 and again in 2018.
The reason given was that certain buildings plans of the lodge had not been approved as required by law. The holding company, however, cried foul, arguing that the lodge’s lease was to end in 2034.
Court documents show that Barker & Barton LLP, a quantity survey firm, was retained to value the lodge after the dispute arose. The firm valued the building and fixtures at Sh329,633,985.
PricewaterhouseCoopers valued the loss of investment at Sh175,831,000, and the owner at trial produced an inventory that valued the moveable assets at Sh20,417,000 for a grand total of Sh525,881,985.
The matter was taken to arbitration where the owner was awarded Sh329,633,985 and Sh7,436,5000 as cost of assorted movable assets together with annual interest at 14 per cent from March 8, 2019 till payment is made in full, plus costs of the proceedings.
Meru High Court Judge Thripisisa Cherere issued an order for the county to pay Sh445,022,388.28, a judgement the Kiraitu’s administration appealed but lost. But in October 2020, former Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu, who also doubled as Finance Executive, said they were ready to go to the Supreme Court to contest the award.
Mr Ntuchiu argued that when they executed the eviction order issued by the previous administration, the idea was to partner with a serious investor to develop the hotel into a top facility that would increase tourist traffic in the park.