Government to blame over delay in SGR project, according to ISK

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ISK chairman said the Institution is disappointed
ISK Chairman Stephen Ambani highlighted the Institution's dismay concerning the Lands Cabinet Secretary's operations at the Ministry

The Institution of surveyors of Kenya (ISK) has blamed the government’s compulsory land acquisition process for interfering with national infrastructure projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway project, expansion of road network and fixing of power lines.

“The Institution has received complaints from some of the government agencies who allege that the process of compulsory land acquisition is very expensive and almost unaffordable,” said ISK Chairman Stephen Ambani. “There have also been court cases that have dragged on for a long period delaying the implementation of the projects,” he said.

“There are instances where the courts eventually award exorbitant sums, sometimes way above the valuation figures as was the case at the Lang’ata Road junction construction. This is a matter of public interest given that the taxpayer’s funds are used for the acquisition. The delay in the project implementation ends up increasing the cost by huge proportions. This matter should be addressed expeditiously to avoid further loss,” he said.

Earlier reports indicated that Kenyan taxpayers had lost sh.370 million through fraudulent and inflated compensation claims for land meant for the construction of Standard Gauge Railway. This was through an audit jointly conducted by the Kenyan Railways Corporation Risk and Audit Department, and the National Land Commission’s Audit Department that was carried out between April and June 2016.

Land problems still pose a big issue in Kenya with many families living as squatters. Lately the government has stepped up its efforts by issuing of title deeds and resettlement of internally displaced persons.

Most Kenyans have been caught up by the land buying frenzy; as a result, most land owners have taken advantage. With a small piece of land going for millions of shillings making acquisition of land hard for many Kenyans.

The problem of ownership of land in Kenya goes back to the advent of colonialism when white settlers hived off parts of the Kenyan highlands and claimed ownership.

The hope that the land would revert back to the African owners was never realized, as a result, some landless Kenyans were accommodated as squatters by the remaining white farmers. Others joined cooperative societies that purchased large farms which were later subdivided and shared out among the various members.

The Government would later introduce alternative cheaper schemes. They were, however, marred by political interference, with politicians using the opportunity to reward their supporters.

While addressing the press, Mr. Ambani said that the institution is looking forward to carrying out internal inquiry to establish among others whether the land values submitted to guide compensation were fair and correct, and whether the beneficiaries of the compensation were genuine among others.

“Routes to be followed by infrastructure projects on the ground as it were, should only be communicated to the public on the commencement of the projects. All information during the planning stage ought to be held in confidence by those concerned to avoid speculators taking advantage.” Ambani continues.

He says. “The Government should evaluate alternative routes for the infrastructure projects so that those that turn out to be too expensive due to high compulsory acquisition figures should be abandoned in favour of those relatively affordable.

ISK has dealt with many issues
ISK has addressed vital issues facing land sector.

 

Concerning the delay of National Infrastructure Projects, he adds that. “We have also been informed of a dangerous trend where the land owners collude with the procuring entity to inflate the price of land to be acquired. In instances, where their expectations are not met, they seek redress in court and in the process delaying the project implementation.”

According to the ISK Chairman, the National Land Commission together with office of the Ombudsman should appoint a task force comprising of ISK among others to review all the issues of compulsory acquisition going forth.

Ambani, however, urges the Government and the Commission to finalize amendments to the land laws and gazette regulations that shall give a guideline to the process.