MPs summon Swazuri over Sh12b railways land payout
Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
MPs have summoned former National Land Commission (NLC) chairperson Muhammad Swazuri to appear before them tomorrow to explain how monies amounting to billions of shillings were spent during compulsory acquisition of various pieces of land in the country.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi resolved to invite Swazuri after it emerged that Swazuri authorised Kenya Railways Commission (KRC) to make direct payments amounting to Sh12 billion with respect to Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) without transferring the money to NlC.
The Land Act 2012 requires the acquiring entity to deposit with NLC the compensation funds including survey fees, registration fees and any other costs before the acquisition is undertaken.
“ I am directing that former chairperson Muhammad Swazuri and former commissioners appear in person before this committee on Friday (tomorrow)” said Wandayi. We want Swazuri and we don’t want excuses,” said Wandayi.
In a letter dated October 6,2014, Swazuri delegated KRC MD the role of dispensing the payments under direct supervision.
“Due to the urgency of the project, the commission hereby delegates the role of dispensing payments to Kenya Railways Corporation under direct supervision.
You will also be expected to urgently provide for demolition and site clearance of debris at Sh210, 136, 285. Other subsequent costs will be submitted in due course,” reads the letter in part.
In addition, the legislators also asked Swazuri to present himself for the hearing of the matter after he purportedly authorised the utilisation of Sh 226.3 million accrued as interests to be utilised to supplement the commission’s operations without authorization from the national Treasury or Parliament which is a violation of article 221 of the constitution and PFM act 2012 on supplementary appropriation act.
The interest earned arose after NLC received a total of Sh23.1billion in its account at the National Bank of Kenya (NBK) for land compensation for the financial years 2014/2015/ to 2016/2017.
Wandayi issued the summons on the day he raised concerns that the decision of Swazuri made it impossible for the Auditor General Nancy Gathungu in her special audit of the NLC payments for land purchases on behalf of other government t entities to review the Sh12billion, which was in respect to SGR.
He regretted that the NLC does not maintain a database/register of all public land acquired which is total violation of not only article 62(a) of the constitution that mandates NLC to manage public land on behalf of National and County government but also section 8 of the Land Act that requires the commission to identify public land, prepare and keep a database of all public land.
“ What wisdom did NLC use to pay KRC directly to persons affected which is contrary to the law,” Wandayi asked suspended Chief Executive Tom Chavangi who had appeared before the committee to respond to questions relating to the compensations.
Duale also sought to know what other provisions did Swazuri used to allow KRC to make the payments yet the law is clear on who should procure
But speaking although Chavangi confirmed that the Swazuri actually authorized the money, he was quick to clarify that the commission’s decision was because NLC lacked adequate systems to handle such kind of money.
“Yes there was money that was paid to KRC. But this was done because in the financial year 2013/2014 the commission did not have proper systems like valuers, directorates such as those dealing with finance to handle such kind of money,” he said.
On probed further by Wandayi as to which law was used to send the money to KRC, Chavangi said his powers were at times usurped by the commission as it served as an executive commission.
“The commission was an executive commission. The commissioners were in
Office from eight in the morning to five in the evening. My powers were at some point usurped by the commissioner. In some cases my advice could either be binding or persuasive,” he said.
On another Sh7.7 billion paid to various beneficiaries whose compensation schedules were either not dated, not signed or not availed, Chavangi surprised the committee when he told them that he was equally shocked that such payments were made without signatures being verified.
“ Where I am sited I am also shocked that payments can be made without signatures from various valuers.
When I contacted the officers at NLC they only told me that they needed time to clarify this, “ he said.
The meeting had been called to deliberate a special audit report by Gathungu that was released in September last year.
The audit report shows that NLC did not conduct due diligence before making the payments amounting to billions of shillings.