The former Kisii County Government administration may have spent Sh 34 million on a phantom project for the purchase a 20-acre piece of land meant for a cemetery and a dumpsite.
Investigations by the Nation indicate that a man posing as the owner of the land used fake documents and duped officials of the county government to pay for the parcel of land in Nyatieko on the outskirts of Kisii town.
Kisii County Land Registrar Steve Mokaya said some senior politicians and county officials may have colluded with land grabbers to illegally and forcefully acquire the piece of land, yet they knew there was a dispute over ownership pending in court.
Allocation of a designated cemetery and dumpsite remains a headache for the devolved unit and the new county administration is now grappling with waste management and lack of a public cemetery.
“They did this with the full knowledge that the land was a subject of litigation at Kisii Environment and Land Court,” Mr Mokaya noted.
The land registrar stated that a former top county leader, a seating MCA, former and current senior county administration officials were part of the scheme that saw millions of shillings spent on the phantom project
According to Mr Mokaya, the said officials worked hard to cover up the ongoing litigation and purported to legitimise the land ownership before spending the money.
Besides the ongoing court contest over the legal owner of the property, the county officials also ignored widespread opposition from the community that the site was not conducive for a dumpsite and cemetery because it is located within a school, a health facility and village residential homes.
Three Catholic priests were among residents of Nyatieko who demanded that Kisii County Government stops development of the 20-acre piece of land, which was and still is, at the center of the court battle.
“The land that was purportedly bought using public money was bought from a non-owner. You need to find correct information about the Nyatieko land,” said Mr Mokaya.
“First whether the property was transferred, and if it was transferred, from where and to whom. Second, find out if the amount being stated was paid, who was it paid to and how much it was. Finally find out what size of the land was bought,” added Mr Mokaya.
The land registrar noted that had the county intended to conduct the purported purchase above board, by now Kisii town residents would have started utilising the property and that the town dwellers could not be contending with streets full of garbage because there is nowhere to dump the trash.
It is not clear when Mr Mokaya, who is the custodian of land matters in the county, discovered this but before the land in question was purportedly bought, he had defended the process.
However, during our latest interview with him, the land registrar said that the records and documents given to him then showed that the county had acquired the land properly.
“You know, someone can show you that this is the land I am selling you, but it belongs to someone else. That is what we call “shamba hewa…” Shamba hewa is when someone shows land on the ground, but that person is not the owner of the property,” said Mr Mokaya.
“Was there consent to transfer the land? Even the DC refused to issue the consent because there was an ongoing court case.
Mr Mokaya said the new Kisii County leadership should pick up the issue and determine whether the county lost money through fraudulent means where people knowingly spent money on a non-existent property.
“From whom did the county government purchase the land? They said they spent a certain amount…where is the sale agreement; what were the terms and conditions; what was the acreage of the property being sold?” paused Mr Mokaya.
The revelations by the land registrar corroborates a July 2020 Nation reporting which questioned the rationale of the county spending public money on the property, as it was, and still is, a subject of a court battle.
The 20-acre piece of land in Kitutu Chache South constituency was being purchased for an alleged dumpsite and public cemetery.
When the county attempted to hive off 13 acres of the 20-acres of the land in order to set up the public cemetery, villagers came out in large numbers to resist the move.
However, the protesters were met with menacing county askaris with the support of riot police who beat them up claiming the villagers were obstructing alleged development initiatives that was purportedly meant to benefit the community.
At that time, the county was under pressure from the national government, which required that the devolved unit demonstrate that it had adequate space set aside for public cemeteries in preparation for a possible surge of deaths from the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Mokaya named some top politicians, leaders in the county and a number of officials in the last and current regime as the principal culprits in the illegal sale.
The MCA was a member of the land committee of the county assembly and was among those tasked to defend the property.
In 2020, Mr Mokaya told the Nation that the process was right and proper.
But he said there were accountability issues in the whole process and that it was opaque and the public may have lost money.
The cemetery land dispute is just one of the many cases of land ownership wrangles in Kisii where double allocation, overlapping, forged title deeds among other issues reigns supreme.
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