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PS skips grilling on Sh1 billion payment to NIS

NIS was paid Sh1 billion for its role in reforms launched by President Kenyatta.

Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri

The National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is relentless in probing a Sh1 billion payment to the National Intelligence Service by the Ministry of Lands.

Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri was summoned to appear before the committee on Monday January 31, 2022 to answer questions regarding the transaction that was flagged by Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu.

However, PS Muraguri skipped the grilling session where he was expected to shed more light on how NIS delivered an electronic land system that President Uhuru Kenyatta launched in April 2021.

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The PS requested more time to address the issues at hand in a letter to the National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai.

This is to kindly request the date of appearance to be rescheduled to February 15, 2022, to respond adequately,” the document read in part.

PAC Chair Opiyo Wandayi said his team would not relent in establishing how taxpayers’ money was utilised.

He has sought more time to prepare but we shall seek to know the truth however long it takes,” Wandayi said.

Auditor General’s findings

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Auditor General Nancy Gathungu disclosed that NIS did not explain its role in the creation of the digital land information management system (LIMS).

According to Ms Gathungu, the NIS also failed to confirm receiving Sh1,012,370,000 from the Ministry of Land for the establishment of the digital registry.

Further, the terms of reference and progress reports in respect to the LIMS project on behalf of the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning were not availed for audit review,” she said.

Road Block

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One of the roadblocks Gathungu faces in auditing the transaction is that the NIS budgetary spending is not open to public scrutiny.

However, the Lands PS defended that the spy agency was involved in the LIMS project due to the security nature of documents involved.

Land ownership remains a politically sensitive, socially and culturally complex issue in Kenya.

Since independence, it has been dogged by disputes over ownership, use and access.

The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report (TJRC, 2013) established that a close link exists between land injustices and ethnic violence in Kenya.

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LIMS was launched to solve issues of and ownership by providing complete details of the parcel of land from the original owner, period of ownership, year of purchase to the number of transactions to the current status of land, the revenue officials need to collect as well as the image of the land/property.

Another suspicious payment

In May 2021, the National Assembly raised concern over the payment of Sh73 million to NIS by the Ministry of Lands.

CS Farida Karoney’s ministry had received the Sh73 million from the Ministry of ICT. MPs questioned why the payment was not made directly to NIS.

Garissa MP Aden Duale also asked for affirmation that the LIMS was tamperproof, unlike other government systems which have been riddled in corruption scandals.

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Yes we can guarantee the security of land documents now but we are checking what paperwork supports the ownership,” the Lands PS said at the time.

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