How state has been paying billions for its own land for roads

Compensation for the acquisition of land for public utilities has turned into a cash cow for well-connected individuals

In Summary

• NLC is once again on the spot for recommending Sh3.2 billion compensation for government land.

• The latest case involves Sh3.2 billion to acquire land belonging to the Kenya National Highways Authority for the Nairobi Expressway project. 

The Western Bypass will complete the city's ring road
The Western Bypass will complete the city's ring road
Image: Charlene Malwa

The government has been paying billions of shillings in compensation for its own land in questionable payouts by the National Lands Commission.

The compensation, which involves the acquisition of land for public utilities, is allegedly a cash cow for well-connected individuals who fleece taxpayers.

Two years ago, the government spent Sh1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to acquire the Ruaraka land that later turned out to belong to the public.

In 2018, former NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri was among seven top government officials who were arrested over an allegedly fraudulent attempt to pay Sh2.8 billion compensation for the standard gauge railway land.

MPs on Monday heard of yet another attempt to have the government spend Sh3.2 billion to acquire land belonging to the Kenya National Highways Authority.

The NLC sought to spend the money as part of the Sh18 billion meant to compensate people affected by the Nairobi Expressway project.

The land stretches from Cabanas to the Southern Bypass on the way from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The stretch was lined up by the commission for compensation of 32 individuals and firms totalling Sh3,187,723,275 to pave way for construction.

All 32 entities are said to have ownership documents, which Kenha has dismissed.

Kenha director-general Peter Mundinia told the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, the land was a road reserve belonging to the authority and not private property.

He said the authority had written to the NLC about the ownership of the land, but Kenha's records do not show any transfer of the land to any private individual or entity.

“That area was set aside as a buffer zone. We have written to NLC to that effect. As far as we know, that land was never given to anyone,” Mundinia said.

He said NLC is yet to reply to Kenha's letter advising against compensation for the 32 entities listed as owners of the land.

PAC chairman Opiyo Wandayi said the committee will summon the NLC to explain why they recommended compensation for land that belongs to the authority.

“We must call NLC to explain this transaction. They must explain to us how it happened,” Wandayi said.

PAC has been investigating issues raised in a special report by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu on NLC’s payments on behalf of other government entities for the periods 2014-15 to 2016-17.

The lawmakers also gave Kenha and the NLC three days to sort out the exact amount the authority has given to the commission for compensation.

Gathungu said NLC records show the authority had remitted Sh5 billion to the commission for compensation, while Kenha said it had only remitted Sh4 billion, resulting in a Sh1 billion discrepancy.