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Swazuri in trouble over Sh35b SGR land payouts

POLITICS
By Moses Nyamori | March 18th 2021

Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Details emerged yesterday of how Swazuri (pictured) instructed Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) to directly pay Sh12 billion to persons affected by the SGR project in total violation of the law.

The law requires that the acquiring entity remits such money to NLC, which subsequently conducts valuation before making payments.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also learnt that some of the documents used in an additional Sh23 billion in compensation were not verified. They did not also have signatures authorising the payments, raising suspicion on their validity.

Some of the compensations were also done without conducting official search to ascertain land ownership while in some instances, the railway line was rerouted after the land had been paid for, leading to loss of taxpayers’ money running into hundreds of millions.

At the same time, former NLC officials are on the spot for spending Sh226 million – earned in form of interest from compensation money held at its National Bank of Kenya account – without the approval of Treasury or National Assembly.

The team chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi directed that Swazuri and the former members of the commission’s Land Acquisition and Compensation Committee appear before it tomorrow.

The summoned ex-commissioners are Tomik Mboya, Rose Mumbua Musyoka, Emma Muthoni Njogu and Silas Muriithi. Salome Munubi, the then Valuation and Taxation Director, who was also the secretary to the commission, has also been summoned.

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Swazuri and some of the former commission officials are currently in court facing cases over alleged corruption relating to land compensation.

The fresh details emerged when the suspended CEO Tom Chavangi appeared before the team investigating the matter flagged by an audit by the Office of the Auditor General.

However, Chavangi could not respond to most of the questions raised for lack of documentation after the court barred him from accessing the offices until a matter in court involving him is determined.

UNFETTERED ACCESS

“I request this committee by virtue of the powers vested upon it to be kind enough to issue directions and or order the National Land Commission to grant me unfettered access to all the relevant documentation and records in their possession for purposes of preparing adequately,” said Chavangi.

The committee directed that NLC allows him to access the documents required but without contravening court orders.

But Chavangi defended the decision to instruct KRC to make direct payments, saying the commission did not have systems then to make payments on behalf of the acquiring entity.

“The commission did not have proper systems to handle that kind of money. We didn’t have directorates such as valuation, finance; that is why we asked the KRC to continue paying directly,” he said.

The payments in question were from seven entities - KRC, Kenya Urban Roads Authority, Kenya National Highways Authority, State Department for Housing and Urban Development, National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation, Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport and Tanathi Water Service Board.

“The chairman NLC authorised KRC to make direct payments for land compensation without transferring the balance of Sh12,050,028,007 to the NLC as per section 111 (1A) of the Land Act 2012 that requires the acquiring entity to deposit with NLC the compensation funds including survey fees, registration fees and any other costs before the acquisition is undertaken,” states the audit.

National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri  when he appeared before the National Assembly Environment Committee at Parliament on Thursday 09/08/18. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

The audit established that the valuation schedule used as a basis of effecting compensation payments totaling Sh7,741,072,555 were not dated, signed or availed.

It also emerged KRC initially acquired 12.98 hectares for the construction of a station at Sultan Hamud, but later redesigned the SGR route resulting in the station’s relocation to Emali.

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