The purchase of a Sh310 million official residence for Chief Justice Willy Mutunga was based on an incomplete valuation report, a former Judiciary officer told Parliament on Monday.
Suspended deputy Chief Registrar Kakai Kissinger Monday told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the Judiciary bought a mansion located in Nairobi’s Runda Ridge without the final valuation report.
Dr Mutunga is yet to occupy the palatial residence bought from Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama and paid for it in April last year.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Enterprises had been hired for the valuation, but the Judiciary closed the deal before offering details like the status of the lease, charges on the property and physical view of the property.
“We relied on interim or preliminary reports to award the tender for the purchase of the property. But I seek more time to make a confirmation,” Mr Kissinger told the MPs.
He could not explain whether the Judiciary received title documents for the yet to be occupied property.
“I know that lawyers were working on registering the property in the name of Judiciary, but I was suspended and I couldn’t know if they have title documents now,” said the former registrar.
The committee was told that former Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei entered into an agreement with JKUAT Enterprises to provide consultancy services for the Judiciary.
Auditor-General Edward Ouko says in a special report that the JKUAT contract was suspect and the varsity unit was overpaid for services offered.
“The contract between JKUAT Enterprises with the Judiciary should be stopped immediately and further investigations carried on JKUAT Enterprises,” said Mr Ouko in an audit on Judiciary operations commissioned by PAC.
The committee, chaired by Ababu Namwamba (Budalangi, ODM), sought to know why the Judiciary rushed to purchase the property without the final valuation report.
Mr Namwamba drew the attention of the deputy registrar to a letter dated February 28, 2013, authored by Ms Nelly Mbugua on behalf of JKUAT Enterprises seeking additional information from the Judiciary in order to finalise the valuation report.
Ms Mbugua, a certified charted surveyor, acting on behalf of JKUAT sought to know the actual size of the property to be purchased. She also needed to know whether the property had a free hold title and was free from all encumbrances.
The probe comes as the Auditor-General asked the Judiciary to seek refunds and re-negotiate lease contracts for its partial occupancy of Rahimtullah Towers in Nairobi, underlining the questionable real estate deals closed by the department.
The office space was leased in July and comes with an annual rent of Sh39.4 million. The Judiciary also paid a six-month deposit based on rent effective July 2017, translating to an over payment of Sh1.08 million per month.
Besides Rahimtullah Towers and CJ’s house, Elgon Place, leased for the Court of Appeal in a six-year deal worth Sh420.6 million, remains unoccupied.