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Silence that earned Kisii County boss, top officials Sh500,000 fine


 Kisii Environment and Land Court Judge Sila Munyao. [Sammy Omingo,Standard]

Failure by the Kisii County Government and land officials to respond to a request by a woman over restrictions placed on her disputed land has landed them in trouble.

Environment and Lands Court Judge Sila Munyao in a May 4 judgment ordered the Kisii County Executive for lands, housing physical planning and urban development, the county director, physical and land planning, governor, the county government and the Land Registrar Kisii to pay the woman Sh500,000.

Joyce Ongera had in June 2022 sued the five for blocking her from developing a parcel of land located in Kisii town. The judge noted that the county government, its officials, and the land registrar acted unfairly toward Ms Ongera.

"I have demonstrated that administrators need to follow the law and treat all persons fairly, and that includes responding to applications and letters. Kenyans should not be forced to tolerate the behaviour where administrators act as they please," ruled the judge.

The judge noted that refusing to respond to applications and queries is not good conduct on the part of administrators and those in authority.

"To pass the message that this conduct ought not to be tolerated, I will make an award of Sh500,000 in favour of the petitioner, as exemplary damages. Out of this amount, the first to fourth (CEC lands, county physical planning, governor, and county government) respondents will be liable to the extent of Sh400,000 and the fifth respondent (Land Registrar Kisii), will be liable to the extent of Sh100,000," he stated.

Ongera in the petition argued that she was the registered proprietor of the leasehold title. She pleaded that she wished to commence development of the suit property and that on July 26, 2019, she lodged her application for development approval with the office of the county executive for lands and director of physical planning and paid the prescribed fee.

Automatically granted

Her application, she said was to be considered and approved or disapproved within 60 days, failure to which the permission would be deemed to have been granted.

She says the administrators refused and ignored to act on it.

She avers that she applied to be furnished with a copy of the letter and made the requisite payment but the Kisii Land Registrar said he was under instructions not to furnish the said document to her.

Kisii County Director for Land Administration Haron Nyamache said the ownership of the suit property was under scrutiny and investigation by the anti-graft body.

The court noted that the development permission was lodged on July 26, 2019, and no response was received.

The judge said the avenue of keeping silent and sitting on the application is not there in the law.

Justice Munyao noted that it is unreasonable, unfair, and unconstitutional, for a person exercising administrative authority to decline to act on an application when the law requires him or her to so act.

"It is an act of impunity and an unfair administrative practice for an administrator to stonewall an applicant. In very simple terminology, it is bad manners," he stated.

The court issued a permanent injunction restraining the respondents from interfering with the development.

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