The corruption watchdog has secured an extension of its Sh70-million-a-year lease for its Nairobi head office months after it was involved in a public spat with the owners of the building over the tenancy.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) on Monday confirmed it had obtained extension of the lease, but declined to reveal the new rental terms or the parties with which it had negotiated the deal.
The shadowy owners of the Integrity Centre building had given the EACC up to Tuesday next week to vacate the premises that have housed the corruption watchdog since 1997.
“Please note that EACC is not under threat and will continue occupying Integrity Centre. The lease was renewed for three years and two months,” said the anti-corruption agency in a statement.
Subsequent queries and phone calls to the EACC went unanswered.
Under the old terms, the EACC paid Sh70 million in rent annually to the building’s owners. Just before he was suspended, and subsequently resigned as EACC chairman, Mumo Matemu had requested allocation of Sh400 million to buy a new office block.
Treasury secretary Henry Rotich initially proposed to give the agency Sh300 million in the 2015/16 budget but later scrapped the vote just weeks to the Budget Day, saying the EACC had failed to identify a new building to host its headquarters.
The Integrity Centre, previously held as a public asset by the Deposit Protection Fund (DPF), has of late been claimed publicly by both the Revack Limited, a company associated with former Cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott, and Tegus Limited.
In April Revack, purporting to be acting on behalf of Tegus, gave the EACC up to June 30 to vacate its premises after it accused a section of its leadership of conniving to transfer the property to a third party.
The building was initially owned by Trade Bank, also associated with Mr Biwott, which collapsed in 1993 with about Sh300 million owed to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).
The CBK’s Deposit Protection Fund seized and put the asset to auction but Mr Biwott and associates formed Revack Limited on May 25, 1994, which outbid other contestants to buy back the building.
The mystery over its ownership played out in April when it featured prominently as the cause of a fallout that pitted the EACC commissioners, headed by Mr Matemu, against the secretariat headed by Mr Waqo.
Just before he left office, Mr Matemu said the EACC was investigating the “ownership structure” of Integrity Centre after Revack issued a quit notice on behalf of Tegus, the supposed official owners.
At some point, Mr Matemu even suspended Michael Mubea, the EACC’s deputy CEO, accusing him of aiding Tegus to illegally take over Integrity Centre, an action which was reversed upon Mr Matemu’s suspension.
Mr Matemu would later write to the National Land Commission, demanding an explanation of how the ownership of the building changed hands from the DPF through Revack to Tegus.
“We had not identified a building by the time of budget but we have an understanding with the Treasury that once a suitable office space is identified, the money will be available,” the EACC official said.
In Parliament, Majority leader Aden Duale named Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, Adan Ahmed and a Mr Makokha as owners of the Integrity Centre but failed to produce any evidence linking the trio to the property.
The House later gave the EACC 14 days to conclude investigations into the ownership of the building but the findings were never made public after Mr Matemu was suspended.
Earlier investigations by the Daily Nation suggest that Integrity Centre may have been sold to Tegus for Sh400 million in June 2013, far below its estimated market value of Sh1 billion.
According to the investigation, the building was transferred to Tegus by Revack on May 12, 2014.
“It appears that unwitting individuals were brought into the transaction to lend their names to be used as directors so that the transaction could go through,” the Daily Nation investigations concluded after individuals listed as directors denied links with the said company.
According to the paper trail, for instance, the names that appear in documents as director of Revack are Mr Mwonga Gideon Munyao and Mr Mohammed Thabet Tuwei. Ms Muthui Rachel Wanjugu and Mr Doshi Anish of Mombasa signed for Tegus.
During investigations, it turned out that Mr Munyao used to be a messenger in the offices of Wetang’ula, Adan and Makokha Advocates while Mr Tuwei was, by May 2013, a bread salesman in Kakamega.
Similarly, Tegus, which appears on record as the new owner of Integrity Centre, is 49 per cent owned by Watuwatu Ltd and Sunnex Ltd.
Company registry records indicate that Watuwatu Ltd is owned by lawyer Ahmed Adan of Wetang’ula, Adan and Makokha Advocates, and Mr Asma Ahmed Adan.
The Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula maintains he relinquished his interest in the firm when he was appointed Foreign Affairs minister in 2008.