Fresh inquiry into Sh10bn low-cost housing land grab


PAC chair Opiyo Wandayi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Parliament has summoned two individuals who through several companies subdivided a Sh10 billion land grabbed from the Kenya Meteorological Department in Embakasi, Nairobi, in the latest twist to the saga.

The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) issued summonses to the two after officials at the Ministry of Environment failed to explain whether they were charged after the anti-graft agency revoked the transactions through a civil case judgment of 2020.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) revoked titles for the 21.04 hectares prime land block/209/24794/81, located in the city’s industrial area on road B off Enterprise Road.

Despite High Court revoking the land in 2020, another company, Swing Investment Company sued the Meteorological Department seeking a portion of the 21.04-hectare land.

President Uhuru Kenyatta issued an Executive Order following the revocation of the title to the land directing that the property be handed over to the State Department for Housing for the Mukuru slum upgrading project. Dr Kiptoo said excavation work is ongoing on the land.

PAC has now summoned five companies that had earlier grabbed the land but lost it through the EACC court action.

The five companies to be grilled are Hillbrow Properties limited, Brentwood Traders limited, Pamba Properties limited, Varun Industrial Credit limited and Beacon Towers limited.

Documents tabled before Parliament show that the five companies are owned by two individuals, Kantibhai Maganbhai and Harish Ashabhai Patel who owned 99 shares and one share respectively.

At the incorporation of the five companies in the late 1990s, Mr Maganbhai owned majority shareholding before his death in December 2007.

A third director in all the five companies Pritibala Shah, the daughter of Maganbhai, was appointed on June 15, 2007, but without any share according to the judgment.

The five private companies subdivided the 21.04-hectare land into equal portions and allocated it to themselves.

PAC said its preliminary investigations reveal that the five companies are owned by one individual.

“We want to know why the claimants of this property were never charged after a civil suit against the fraudulent claim of the government land,” Opiyo Wandayi who chairs PAC said.

The committee met Environment and Natural Resources committee Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo over the property in question.

Dr Kiptoo told the committee that the Sh5 billion price tag attached to the land located around Mukuru slums is “an underestimation.”

Director of Meteorological Department Stella Aura and the Environment ministry legal officer Annie Syombua confirmed there have not been any criminal proceedings against Mr Maganbhai and Harish Ashabhai after they lost a bid to fraudulently claim ownership of the 21.04 hectares.

The EACC went to court in 2009 and on August 3, 2020, Environment and Land Court Judge E.O Obaga revoked the five title deeds after it established that they were fraudulently obtained.

Justice Obaga’s ruling was not appealed.

PAC chairman put Dr Kiptoo to task to explain the action that the ministry had taken against the individuals who had claimed the land.

“Have you instituted criminal proceedings against the individuals who had grabbed the government land? If not what action has been taken,” Mr Wandayi asked.

Committee members Aden Duale said there could have been a wider plot by some officials at the ministry to collude with the owners of the companies to grab the public land.

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