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EACC recovers public property worth Sh410 million in Kisumu

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has recovered public property worth Sh410 million from a private developer in Kisumu.

The property located in Kisumu’s Dunga area comprises prime land valued at Sh60 million and a storey building (Sunshine Villas) worth Sh350 million.

EACC Western Regional Manager Abraham Kemboi said the land belonging to the county government of Kisumu was set aside as a wayleave for Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO) who have laid huge pipes that draw water from Lake Victoria to the treatment plant adjacent to the building.

“These pipes are 20mm and were laid in the 1960’s. The storey building and the perimeter wall sit on the pipes,” he said.

This, he said, was affecting service delivery and expansion plans by KIWASCO as demand for water in the lakeside city rises.

The company, he added, was encountering difficulties repairing and maintaining pipes underneath the building since there was no space for machinery and equipment to access the pipes.

Furthermore, he added that the building was not safe with the big pipes underneath because, in the event of a spillage, it would lead to the collapse of the structure.

“Due to the increase in population, there has been a need to increase and expand the operations but unfortunately that has been hindered since it can only be done through laying additional pipes where the property lies,” he said.

The developer, Sunshine Villas filed a case against the county government of Kisumu in 2018 claiming ownership of the property and Sh250 million as damages for demolition of the building.

In the same year, the plaintiff applied and obtained a Court Order allowing them to continue with the construction.

EACC applied to be enjoined in the case as an interested party to avert the loss of public property.

Kisumu High Court Judge Samson Okong’o last week ruled that the suit property was public land set aside as an open space for public use.

Kemboi said the anti-graft agency was actively investigating other cases in Kisumu and nearby counties where government land worth over Sh8 billion has been grabbed.

He pointed out 20 acres of Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) land in Milimani where private developers have put up palatial homes, Mamboleo land reserved for the construction of an industrial park, 18-acre Kibuye market land, and Nyalenda Kenya Railways Corporation land which was fraudulently sold by a law firm.

Others include the land meant for the expansion of the Kisumu Water Treatment Plant and construction of the County Assembly Offices, grabbed government houses meant for civil servants, and Kenya Railways land legally leased to Aga Khan Hospital.

Previously, the commission successfully recovered land meant for Kisumu Law Courts, Kenya Railways Land at Kisumu Pier, and Taifa Park all in Kisumu City.

Kemboi cautioned lands officers and other government officials who allocate and approve buildings on public land saying the agency will petition the courts to surcharge them once found culpable.

“We are now changing the strategy where if we are filing for a recovery in court, we will petition the court for the officer who signed off government land to pay for the same,” he said.

Kemboi asked those occupying government lands illegally to surrender the same to the commission before the long arm of the law caught up with them.

Sections of the building recovered by EACC from a private developer in Kisumu
Photos by Chris Mahandara/KNA

“All persons holding titles to grabbed government property across the country are called upon to consider voluntarily surrendering the same to the commission instead of waiting for the costly and lengthy court process which may nevertheless see them surrender the property and pay costs of the suit and interest to the commission,” he said.

Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga lauded the EACC for the recovery saying the move was set to end impunity in the lakeside city where people collude with corrupt officials at the lands registry to allocate themselves public land.

“I want to thank the EACC for this recovery. Were it not for them the county government of Kisumu had lost this battle. When they came in, a lot of research was done and documents produced which helped in the recovery,” he said.

Wanga added that the county government was pursuing over 100 similar cases in Kisumu City where county government land and houses have been grabbed.

So far, he said 76 files have been prepared and will be forwarded to EACC to set in motion the process of recovering the property.

He cautioned those occupying government land illegally in the city to vacate, adding that no effort shall be spared until the land reverts to the government.

By Chris Mahandara

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