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Puzzle of petrol filling station on EPZA land

Fred Aminga  and Christine Musa @PeopleDailyKE

Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA) land could be in danger after a private developer who hived off part of it is already setting up a petrol station despite ongoing investigations into the deal. The construction along Nairobi-Namanga road, a key regional road linking Tanzania and Kenya, started last month and is nearing completion blocking a footpath used by pedestrians and cyclists.

The fenced project which does not have any signage as is required by law to indicate the name of the contractor and owner has forced hundreds of school-going children from the populous Kitengela and those heading to neighbouring counties to walk along the busy highway.

Both investors and residents expressed disappointment about the development to People Daily, wondering why such a business would be set right in an industrial area zone.

The Athi River-based State Corporation was set up to create a conducive environment for foreign direct investment by providing investors benefits and incentives such as tax exemptions for a specified period of time and relaxed business regulations to spur exports for Kenya.

Coming even as the government plans to leverage on the manufacturing sector by encouraging more companies to invest in the country in line with the Big Four agenda, using EPZA’s land for other reasons other than the intended purpose could derail Kenya’s efforts of becoming a manufacturing hub.

Stakeholders in the sector and residents who sought anonymity say they read malice in the new development, adding that the project could be the result of a corruption ring eyeing EPZA land.

“This is an industrial area and the nature of the business to be carried out is clearly defined. If an individual can secure land inside the EPZA and put up a petrol station within the zone, we fear many more might come up and the export zone could soon lose its meaning,” said another.

The development comes two months after several scams worth billions of shillings were identified at the park leading to the suspension of some board members.

When contacted, Acting EPZA chief executive George Makaketo declined to comment on the phone, saying the matter is under investigation. He also refused to divulge which agencies were investigating the unscrupulous deals around the project.

“I may not be able to answer that as it is something still under investigation,” he said. People Daily, however, learnt that the petrol station has allegedly been leased to a private Indian businessman for 60 years in unclear circumstances even as stakeholders say a powerful politician is pulling the strings behind the scene.

The new EPZA board has already forwarded reports from the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority to Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, pointing out 13 procurement cases that were either amended or had major variations contrary to the law.

The report further reveals cases involving alleged land grabbers and sale of public land to private entities without any gazette notice from the Minister of Trade. The performance of the EPZ programme in the year 2017 maintained an upward trend in several indicators. Direct local employment expanded by 3.4 per cent from 52,947 persons recorded in 2016 to 54,764 persons in 2017.

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