Kenyan road agencies continue to forcefully evict landowners using compulsory acquisitions clauses available in law, but default on compensation past the 24-month deadline, in a trend that has left the State with Sh37 billion in pending bills.
Official government data shows that the three major road agencies owe project-affected persons (PAPs) a total of Sh37 billion in compensation for land and property compulsorily acquired.
The National Assembly’s Lands committee heard that the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) is the biggest culprit, owing land owners at least Sh35 billion by the end of last week.
The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) has defaulted on compensation worth Sh1.8 billion while the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra) is still holding onto Sh542.5 million in compensation for land acquired for the construction of roads.
“The total awards received from the National Land Commission (NLC) as at March 7, 2023, is Sh84.83 billion. The total outstanding is Sh35 billion,” Kung’u Ndung’u, the KeNHA director general, told MPs.
He said the main reason for the delay in paying compensation to PAPs is a result of budgetary constraints that the authority has been experiencing in the last few years.
The Land Act 2012 requires acquiring entities to pay compensation to affected landowners within 24 months. But the deals in compensating affected individuals are likely to make it harder for the government to take over private land in the future.
It also raises questions on why the road agencies start the compulsory acquisition process without first securing the funding to reduce the pain the state continues to effect on owners who are kicked out of their homes and end up living in rentals for years as they wait for the state to pay them.
“The amount of funds set aside for compensation in the proposed revised budget for 2023/24 on a project-by-project basis has been provided,” Mr Ndung’u said.
KeNHA says it has so far paid Sh45.64 billion out of the Sh80.66 billion it owes from 31 projects that KeNHA is undertaking.
Mr Ndung’u said KeNHA has fully paid Sh4.17 billion for 29 projects spread across various parts of the country. He said the authority has not paid Sh11.58 billion in compensation to property owners who paved the way for the construction of the Nairobi Expressway.
Mr Ndung’u said only Sh6.67 billion out of the Sh18.25 billion has been paid to project-affected persons under the Nairobi Expressway project.
KeNHA said the Treasury has allocated Sh150 million in the financial year starting July 1, to compensate the Expressway land owners.
“If only Sh150 million has been allocated, how long will it take you to clear Sh11.58 billion that is needed to compensate Nairobi Expressway project affected persons,” Mr Joash Nyamoko, who chairs the committee said.
Silas Kinoti, the Kura director general said the roads agency owes landowners Sh1,828,860,702 who paved the way for road projects.
“The pending compensation forms around nine per cent of the authority’s pending Bill,” Mr Kinoti said.
He told MPs that many PAPs have not been paid under the Land Compensation Fund program.
The outstanding compensation is for one project-affected person who was awarded Sh400.7 million for the Northern and Eastern Bypass (Tulip), Sh789.84 million to 40 PAPs for the Northern and Eastern Bypass (Karagita area), Sh296.25 million for five PAPs under the Githurai Kimbo Phase III and Hospital Road-Mbagathi Link Road Sh743.79 million that will benefit 53 PAPs.
Mr Kinoti said budgetary constraints arising from budget cuts had occasioned delays in the payment of compensation for individuals affected by the projects.
“The allocated resources to this authority are not adequate to settle the pending bills. We are in constant communication with the National Treasury through the parent ministry to avail additional resources which once received, all pending bills including land compensation costs will be settled,” Mr Kinoti said.
He said the authority has made an allocation of Sh220 million towards compensation in the financial year 2023/24. Kerra director-general Philemon Kandie said the authority will clear the Sh542.5 million in compensation to property owners.
“We will endeavour to clear all compensation claims once we receive budgetary allocations from the Treasury,” Mr Kandie said.
MPs accused the National Land Commission of allowing the roads agencies to start new projects when land owners who paved the way for ongoing or completed projects have not been paid.