BY TNLM REPORTER
Expired leases are the new goldmines in Kenya. With powerful contacts at the Ministry of Land at Ardhi House, the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission and at CID HQ on Kiambu Road, one can make hundreds of millions within a very short period. The plan is fairly simple: Forge documents, create new deed plan, get a new title and you are a millionaire.
This is exactly what happened to the very building that houses the EACC, popularly known as Integrity Centre. And the question Kenyans are asking is: If individuals can attempt to grab the Integrity Centre, is any property at all safe?
Integrity Centre is on L.R Number 209/1060. The building belongs to a company called Revack Limited, associated with former powerful cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott. This property has assumed a very important significance in the war between two commissioners and the secretariat.
According to documents in possession of the Nairobi Law Monthly, Revack and Biwott almost lost the building to certain employees at the EACC and powerful political operatives at Ardhi House. When commissioners at Integrity Centre conspire to acquire for themselves the very house for which they pay rent, one suddenly realises that the fight against corruption has gone to the dogs, this according to lawyers representing Revack.
On March 4, 2015, Revack’s lawyers Kipkenda & Co advocates wrote to the chairman of the Commission Mumo Matemu informing him of his client’s decision not to renew the lease that had expired and put the commission on notice that Revack will seek legal redress if its demand to deliver vacant possession of the premises is not honoured. Revack, according to its lawyer, made the decision not to renew the lease simply because the attempt to defraud it of its land was mastermind by employees of the commission. In another letter, Kipkenda wrote: “…because of the said activities perpetrated by the said Kipsang and one of your commissioners, our client is not intent to renew the lease when it expires on 30th June, 2015.”
The notice to vacate Integrity Centre was proceeded by an attempt to create a new title and acquire the property fraudulently. As early as December 2014, Revack had lodged a complaint with the CID in which it accused a number of employees at EACC of attempting to falsify records at the Land ministry in order to acquire the property.
In fact at one stage, according to Steven Kipkenda, a fake title was created at the behest of an employee of the commission called Kipsang Sambai and Commissioner Irene Keino. Unbeknownst to the cabal that was creating the new titles, the lease that had expired had been renewed for a new term as requested by Revack. Those who were creating the new title did not know this critical fact.
It was upon the realisation that their efforts to acquire integrity centre had been thwarted that a new and powerful group come together with a view of cancelling the lease to Revack. Documents were collected from government officers ostensibly for investigation, but the same were then handed over to officers to be destroyed and create a new set of documents to change ownership.
In reply to the notice to vacate on February 27, 2015, Matemu responded and demanded the identity of the true owner of the property. He further called the press and alleged that the notice to vacate was a clear case of corruption fighting back, and further connected the notice to investigations by the commission relating to Anglo leasing, Chickengate, and so on.
In a withering response, Kipkenda questioned the motive of the press conference by Matemu, saying: “Our client doesn’t understand the relevance of connecting our notice to investigations of public bodies by the commission. The owner of the property is a private citizen who merely happens to be the landlord of the commission”.
In light of the abortive attempt to grab Integrity Centre and the notice to deliver possession once the lease expires in June, it is clear this was a case of commissioners crying foul – something they have perfected – when caught with their pants down. That such a serious allegation of fraud by a commissioner can be made and no investigation done shows that the rot in the commission runs deep, and points to a loss of credibility.