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Pipeline’s land donation to street families blocked by Ardhi House barons

NAIROBI
By Nzau Musau | August 7th 2016
Structures put up by squatters on a section of the KPC land in Mukuru kwa Njenga, Nairobi on Friday. [PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/ STANDARD]

NAIROBI: A senator, a Nairobi MP, members of the provincial administration and senior Lands ministry officials are implicated in a plot to transfer of Sh1 billion Kenya Pipeline Company land to a charity group.

In shocking revelations, which lift the veil on shady dealings at Ardhi House, KPC management has confirmed that a humanitarian gesture to donate a 2.6-hectare prime parcel near Mukuru Slums to Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund (SFRTF) has been sabotaged.

Correspondence obtained by The Standard on Sunday reveals that KPC has twice surrendered the land registration documents to the Ministry of Lands, following a request from the Office of the President (OP) four years earlier.

In both instances, the company almost begged the ministry to transfer the land to the Trust Fund urgently as it was needed for construction of a multimillion-shilling donor-funded facility to train and equip thousands of street children into meaningful economic ventures.

“We enclose herewith the Original Title relating to LR No. 209/11325. Please proceed to reissue the Title to the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund. We look forward to receiving a Surrender of Title for our signature,” a letter signed by a Ms Mary Kiptui on behalf of KPC MD George Okungu dated July 11, 2007 says.

On the same day, former Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Amb Francis Muthaura wrote to SFRTF chairman Dr Manu Chandaria, informing him that “appropriate consultations” had been made and approvals given for the transfer of the land.

Muthaura’s letter was copied to then Lands Permanent Secretary Solomon Boit and then Energy PS Patrick Nyoike. Three weeks later on August 6, 2007, Ms Kiptui wrote to the Commissioner of Lands, attaching copies of approval letters from OP and the ministries of Finance and Energy.

Again, she enclosed the original title and pleaded, “Please proceed to reissue the Title to the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund.” A few weeks later, Kiptui wrote again to the Lands ministry, attaching duly executed “surrender” documents and pleading once more, “Please, proceed to issue a new title in respect of the same property to the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust as per the letter of Permanent Secretary, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service dated July 11, 2007.”

For the next three years, the mandarins at Ardhi House went on a lull. What broke ice from their side was a letter from the Commissioner of Lands dated February 15, 2010 responding to the 2007 requests.

“You are hereby requested to confirm whether the Ministry of Energy has given its approval for the acquisition of the above mentioned property. This will facilitate in the documentation of the same,” a letter signed by G. Ireri and written to KPC MD said.

Away from the fact that the approval had been given by Muthaura as the overall head of government, the Energy ministry through Nyoike had specifically given its approval way back in 2007. Then Finance PS James Kinyua had also approved the transfer in 2007.

After waiting for the transfer to be concluded in vain, KPC wrote to the Fund chairman, Chandaria, in August 2008, alerting him that the company was going to finally withdraw security for the parcel. Then MD Selest Kilinda explained that KPC was no longer obligated to guard the property as it had already surrendered the title in favour of the fund.

KPC could no longer justify continued expenditure on a surrendered property, Kilinda argued.

“Considering that this plot is located near Mukuru Slums, it is our genuine concern that the locals/squatters will take advantage of the absence of security to vandalise the perimeter fence and proceed to build illegal structures on the property,” she warned.

In response, Chandaria pleaded with KPC to continue keeping the guards for a while as the Fund incorporated a Trust Deed to enable the land to belong to the trust and not the individual trustees. He also talked of the pain the trust went through to get the plot to be transferred.

Kilinda agreed to keep the guards for a “couple of months” as requested. The couple of months turned into years and on March 2011, KPC started another push for the transfer.

A Mr J Githinji, writing for the KPC MD, dispatched another letter to Commissioner of Lands, making reference to “various correspondences” and pleading for the transfer as a matter of urgency. He also alerted the ministry to the risk the delayed transfer posed to the safety of the parcel.

“KPC has been providing security personnel and casual guards since then, thus incurring heavy cost on the above plot. In view of the above and as a matter of urgency, we would be grateful if you transfer the Title to the Fund so that they take possession of the plot.”

What is baffling in the delay is the fact that the Lands ministry itself initiated the request for the land transfer.

In a letter dated March 12, 2007 by then Lands PS Kombo Mwero, the ministry pleaded with KPC to donate the land to the Fund, which had just been set up. To underscore the urgency of the matter, Mwero informed KPC that the trustees of the Fund had already identified a financier who wanted to build a multi-purpose community centre, including a primary health and dental service facility on the parcel.

But when The Standard on Sunday visited the disputed land yesterday, we found slum dwellers firmly squatting on the land. There was a bee-hive of activity as construction of permanent and semi-permanent structures went on.

“You cannot secure a stall and operate a business here without meeting the owners of this place. You have to give them something small so that they can allow you to set up a shop. I was able to set up my shop here free of charge courtesy of my father who is a friend to one of the owners of this land,” said a middle-aged man who operates a money transfer shop on the disputed land.

KPC MD Joe Sang said all they want is for the land to be given to the beneficiaries to whom it was donated and for the grabbers be evicted.

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