Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
The National Land Commission (NLC) is on the spot over the payment of Sh2.89 billion paid to land owners to pave way for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
Appearing before National Assembly Public Investments Committee, NLC officials led by chairman Muhammad Swazuri were hard-pressed to explain why they failed to provide details of acreage, plot numbers and valuation information to the Auditor General Edward Ouko to enable his office to verify the payments.
This comes after the auditor, in his report, said he was unable to confirm the accuracy and validity of the Sh2.89 billion payments made by NLC on behalf of the government in the 2015/16 financial year. Representatives of the Auditor General told the committee that despite them asking for the documentation for the last one year, the commission only submitted details of the beneficiaries last week.
Committee chairperson Opiyo Wandayi said the committee would not clear NLC until the issue is resolved. He asked why there were discrepancies in the payouts, with some individuals getting more money than others for the same size of land.
Wandayi said the committee would get to the bottom of the matter, and regretted that compensation process could have been manipulated by brokers to enrich themselves. Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi demanded to know why NLC failed to submit documents to the Auditor General after paying land owners.
His Rarieda counterpart Otiende Amollo said some unscrupulous individuals collude with NLC commissioners to put up structures on land earmarked for take-over by government to increase the value of the property. While demanding for accountability from the commission, Amollo also demanded to know whether valuation was done before or after compensation.
But Swazuri defended the commission, saying all payments were done legally. Although they admitted that they provided the documents late to the auditor, they had by last Thursday given all the documents required.
Swazuri said they normally give all details to the bank whenever they want to compensate any individuals and thus the process is smooth. In addition, he said before making any payments they also determine the validity of title deeds of targeted land. “Before we make any payments, we have our valuers who do the valuation and confirm details are accurate,” he said.