The anti-corruption watchdog has ordered the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to halt the planned compensation of thousands of fishermen evicted from their traditional fishing grounds in Lamu.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) said the list of the fishermen had been tampered with. Last week, KPA released the names of 4,734 beneficiaries.
"The commission is advising you (KPA) to stop the payments pending the outcome of verification of the list and the commission's investigation on the subject matter," the EACC wrote.
In a letter dated April 4, EACC Coast Regional Manager Mark Ndiema directed KPA Managing Director William Ruto to hand over all documents related to the payments.
"To facilitate our investigations kindly provide certified copies of the request for the approval for payments of composition to the affected fishermen," said Mr Ndiema.
He asked KPA to provide a master list of names of the payees, including their identity card details, where they stay, telephone contacts, and documents supporting approvals for the payments.
The EACC also wants the minutes of the KPA board meeting and the approvals in respect of the compensation, minutes of the stakeholders, and all correspondences concerning the exercise.
"In addition, kindly appoint senior officers conversant with the matter to record a statement on the requested documents," Ndiema said.
The compensation of the fishermen has been the subject of protracted court battles spanning about 10 years. The fishermen were evicted to pave way for the construction of Lamu Port.
In 2018, the court ordered KPA to compensate the fishermen. Last week, the ports authority said it will in the next 45 days, pay the fishermen from 37 beach management units (BMUs) a total of Sh1.76 billion.
Last Friday, KPA deployed clerks to validate more than 3,500 fishermen as they put the final touches on the exercise to facilitate the release of the cash to genuine fishermen working under the BMUs.
Somo Mohamed Somo, the chairman of the 37 BMUs in Lamu, said the validation exercise has gone smoothly, and that the beneficiaries appended signatures and gave their bank account details.
The fishermen will receive 65 per cent cash compensation with the remainder set aside for the management of the county's fishing activities.
According to Mr Somo, who is also chairman of the Indian Oceans Waters BMU Network that covers Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa, and Kwale, the money will go towards the purchase of boats, engines, cold storage facilities at landing sites, and other gear to improve fishing.
The fishermen filed their case in 2012 where they sought to demonstrate that they could no longer undertake fishing activities due to dredging activities at the port.
KPA appealed in 2019 to challenge the ruling, delaying the compensation. But in July last year, KPA opted for an out-of-court settlement and sealed the deal in court in November.