Swazuri in a spot over Sh1 billion compensation for SGR land

Former National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri. [File, Standard]

Embattled former National Lands Commission (NLC) chairman Muhammad Swazuri is in a spot over Sh1 billion he allegedly paid to "ghosts" as compensation for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) land.

Members of a parliamentary watchdog want Swazuri summoned to explain the fishy payments flagged by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu.

In a report, the Auditor General found that Sh1 billion was paid to persons with no names, identity card numbers or title deeds of the land for which they were compensated.

The National Assembly Public Investments Committee on Commercial Affairs and Energy wants Swazuri to shed light on the probe that has taken lawmakers in circles, amid conflicting statements by witnesses.

Yesterday, the NLC and Kenya Railways clashed on who was to blame for the payments, prompting an order that they furnish the Pokot South David Pkosing-led committee with details of all those who were compensated by November 21.

Kenya Railways Corporation officials offload cargo from an SGR train at the Naivasha Inland Container Depot in Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County in January  2021. [File, Standard]

NLC Chief Executive Officer Kabale Tache said they did not make the payments, blaming Kenya Railways for the same.

"This matter lies squarely with the Kenya Railways," she said, arguing that they made the fictitious payments.

But Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Mainga defended himself saying the NLC was responsible for the valuation of the land to be compensated, which resulted in the Sh1 billion payout to shadowy figures.

“The commission gave us the list of people to be paid. Our work was just to pay,” Mainga told MPs.

Pkosing questioned the difficulties experienced in finding out the beneficiaries of the scandal.

"We need the accounts that received the money," he said adding that this would help establish a money trail that would bring to book corrupt individuals who defrauded the taxpayer.

Previous audits of the SGR compensation have revealed instances of over-compensation, resulting from lack of due diligence on the NLC's part. 

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