MPs' Bid to Have Syokimau Homeowners Paid Dismissed
Owners of homes that were demolished for being on Kenya Airports Authority land will not be compensated after a forensic audit vetoed the resolution of a parliamentary committee.
Auditor-general Edward Ouko says the joint parliamentary committee chaired by Gachoka MP Mutava Musyimi ignored critical facts when it recommended that the owners of the homes be paid restitution and be resettled.
“If government were to make payments to these affected persons, it would encourage encroachment and invasion of private property by individuals in the hope of getting similar treatment,” the report says.
The team found that since the government was not party to the sale of the land mostly belonging to the JKIA and Moi Air Base, there was no legal basis for restitution by government.
“We have established that the parcel of land area known as Syokimau which was affected by the evictions and demolitions is part of the parcel of land owned and registered in the name of KAA,” the audit reads.
The auditor-general recommends that the more than 250,000 land owners pursue the individuals and groups that fraudulently sold them the land.
“The affected individuals should claim restitution based on the existing contracts between themselves and those from whom they purportedly bought the properties,” the report says.
“Mavoko Municipal Council and the Ministry of Lands should refund all irregular charges levied and received from affected persons in respect of the parcel of land in Syokimau.”
The auditor-general said that by compensating those who lost their properties, the government would be sending a wrong signal.
“There are other Kenyans who have lost money through similar schemes like the pyramid schemes and have not been compensated by government,” Mr Ouko said.
Unlike Mau forest and post-election violence victims who were paid ex-gratia and resettled by the government, the victims of demolitions were either “trespassers or had violated the Physical Planning Act regulations by their constructions.”
Mr Ouko estimates that the home owners were conned of more than Sh180 million through illegal land transactions in Syokimau alone.
The audit conducted over 13 weeks with the help of four private forensic audit firms was ordered by Parliament after the Musyimi committee recommended the victims be compensated.
Two weeks ago, the audit report was handed over to the five joint parliamentary committees mandated to probe the November 2011 demolitions.
Describing the demolitions as justified since the developers encroached on government land, the audit found that the land on which JKIA stands can be traced to 1953.
In 1982, the government compulsorily acquired more than 6,000 hectares for the expansion of the airport and protection of flight paths.
“KAA holds a valid title issued in 1996 and which is registered as LR No 70118 over LR No 21919. KAA is therefore entitled to protection of the law as the holders of a valid title over this parcel of land,” Mr Ouko said.
However, part of the land acquired and reserved for the airport has over the years been re-allocated and titles issued to private persons.
This resulted in the shrinkage of around 444 hectares of land demarcated for JKIA land in the 1991 Physical Development Plan compared to what is supported by title documents today,” the auditors said
Investigators were unable to confirm whether the acquisition was finalised due to lack of relevant files at the Ministry of Lands and KAA.
The losses incurred by the owners of the permanent structures in Syokimau, Eastleigh and informal settlements in Kiang’ombe could also not be ascertained.
“The single largest expense incurred by the affected individuals is likely to be the sums spent putting up properties. Given the extent of the inherent underlying uncertainties involved, we have not computed guess-estimates for these potential properties,” the report says.
However, the audit estimated that the officers of representative vendor groups may have received in excess of Sh180 million and that the Mavoko Municipal Council benefited from land related payments totalling around Sh54 million.
The auditor found that the evictions and demolitions were carried out pursuant to a Cabinet directive dated April 14, 2010. The directive arose from threats to aviation safety and security arising out of encroachment to JKIA, Wilson and Moi Airbase aerodromes.
The auditor has recommended that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, prosecute top public officers at the Ministry of Lands and Local Government, former military officers and officials of representative groups that sold the Syokimau land to unsuspecting buyers.
He also asked the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) to liaise with the CID to identify and freeze assets of group officials who fraudulently acquired money from the public.
Among the groups recommended for investigation and, possibly criminal charges are former Mavoko council Town Clerk, the District Lands Officer and Physical Planning Officer at Machakos Lands office, the commissioner of Lands in office in 2001, officials of the department of survey and former Moi Airbase officers.
Others are directors and shareholders of Uungani, Jumbo, Mulolongo Brothers, Foster and Ungani properties in Syokimau area which bore the greatest brunt of the demolitions.
The audit estimates that Uungani, Jumbo and Mulolongo Brothers received Sh73 million, Sh65 million and Sh42 million respectively, from selling the disputed land.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, Coulson Haney Advocates and Sichangi Partners Advocates, Knight Frank Kenya Ltd and Trailster Investigations teamed up with the auditor general to piece through the circumstances surrounding the demolitions and land ownership.