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August 18, 2018

Swazuri bought dubious SGR plots

National Lands Commission chairman Mohamed Swazuri./ANDREW KASUKU
National Lands Commission chairman Mohamed Swazuri./ANDREW KASUKU

Internal correspondence from the National Land Commission indicates that the chairman authorised Sh314 million to purchase five dubious plots for the standard gauge railway.

Embattled NLC chairman Mohamed Swazuri disregarded resolutions by the NLC commissioners and unilaterally authorised payments to individuals with dubious land documents.

Swazuri, an associate professor of Land Economics, is at the centre of another land controversy where he authorised compulsory acquisition of two parcels of school land in Ruaraka at a cost of Sh3.2 billion in January.

Documents indicate that Swazuri disregarded the resolutions of the NLC sub-committee on review of grants and disposition of public land.

Read : Sh370 Million lost in SGR land fraud deals

The committee, which includes all nine NLC commissioners, on July 22, 2015, resolved to revoke the titles of five parcels of land in Embakasi, Nairobi.

The committee concluded that the properties were not eligible for compensation as they were on the railway reserve so the land belonged to the Kenya Railways Corporation.

However, in 2016 Swazuri wrote to KRC Managing Director Atanas Maina rescinding an earlier commission decision not to compensate the five parcels.

“In view of the forgoing, and having reviewed the submissions of the parties and documents submitted, the Commission hereby reconsiders its decision and finds that the titles to the properties be upheld...revocation shall not be effected against a bona fide purchaser for value without notice of a defect in the title,” Swazuri wrote.

Swazuri cleared the previously rejected titles and curiously stated that their leases were all issued on July 1, 1999, for 99 years.

The controversial parcels are LR No 9085, 9088 and 9087 owned by Dasahe Investment Limited, and LR No 9086 owned by Olmotit Estate Limited.

The NLC chairman based his change of mind on a letter from 2011 by the then KRC Managing Director Nduva Muli who clarified that four parcels of land were not on the railway reserve.

However, Muli's letter referred to pieces of land other than the ones cleared by Swazuri. The parcels referred to by Muli are LR No 9807, 9806, 9794 and 10572.

“The Commission conducted public hearings in respect of the above properties and had earlier directed that the same be revoked. However, the respondents through their lawyer Migos-Ogamba & Co Advocates appealed on the grounds that the Commission was not aware that they had received clearance from Kenya Railways Corporation,” Swazuri wrote.

Following Swazuri's letter, Kenya Railways deposited Sh825,496,663 with the NLC for compensation of the SGR land, of which Sh314.1 million was paid out to the controversial firms.

Dasahe Investment Limited was paid Sh 177.5 million for three parcels of land through KCB, Kipande branch, held under the name of Keibukwo Investment Limited.

Curiously, LR No 9086 that Swazuri had said is owned by Olmotit Estate Limited was paid through the same account for Sh43.8 million.

According to the documents obtained by the Star, LR No 29455, which had no title deed at the time of compensation, was acquired for Sh82.8 million.

The money was wired to Standard Chartered Bank, Treasury Square, Mombasa Branch, to an account belonging to Bakhresa Grain Milling Kenya Limited.

Phase One of the SGR compensation was estimated to cost about Sh30 billion.

However, the compensation process has been marred by irregularities and Parliament has already asked Auditor General Edward Ouko to do a special audit of how NLC spent the taxpayers' money.

The NLC has failed to provide full details of the acreage, plot numbers and corresponding valuation information one year after paying the compensation.

Also read : MPs quiz Swazuri team over Sh2.8bn payout for SGR land

The Ruaraka school land case is threatening to prematurely end Swazuri's career at the head of the NLC.

He is among 25 individuals whom the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission wants prosecuted for purchasing land that belongs to the government from a businessman Francis Mburu.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji last week returned the investigation file to the EACC so that it could be tightened up.

The Parliamentary Lands Committee headed by Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai concluded that there was possible collusion between directors of Afrison Import Export and Huelands and officials of the Treasury and Education ministries.

In its report, the committee concluded that the Treasury authorised payment of public funds for compulsory acquisition of the land occupied by Drive Inn Primary and Ruraka Secondary School without a request from the National Land Commission.

Furthermore, the committee complained, Treasury approved the spending of Sh1.5 billion, which was not budgeted but later introduced in the supplementary estimates

“The Committee observed that expenditure was foreseeable and not urgent, was made in haste and need not to have been paid, hence displaying irresponsible financial management by the National Land Commission, the National Treasury and the Ministry of Education,” the report states.

“The National Treasury should take responsibility for loss of public funds amounting to Sh1,500,000,000 as part payment made by the National Land Commission to Afrison Import Export Ltd and Huelands and for authorising payment of Sh1,500,000,000 to Afrison Import Export Ltd and Huelands without an express request from the Ministry of Education.”

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