Crucial evidence that prosecutors were to rely on in a case where National Land Commission Chairman Muhamad Swazuri, former Kenya Railways managing director Athanas Maina and 13 others are charged with irregular compensation for land has gone missing.
A computer containing the crucial documents disappeared from NLC offices on Sunday, just a day before Sh7.2 billion for the compensation of land being acquired for the Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway project was disbursed.
The computer is believed to hold crucial data connected to the case in which Prof Swazuri and the others are accused of irregularly compensating land owners for the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR phase, which was completed in June last year.
Prof Swazuri was allowed to resume work by the courts despite fears by the prosecution that letting him back to work could jeopardise the case.
He successfully argued that he wouldn’t, and detectives are not imputing any improper motive on him or his officers yet. Justice Hedwig Ong’udi, however, directed him not to interact or interfere with witnesses at his workplace or elsewhere.
Prof Swazuri was also required to give an undertaking not to interfere with the records and documents relevant to the case as that would lead to automatic cancellation of his bond.
This is the second high-profile corruption case in recent months whose documents have gone missing, after those in the Kenya Power faulty transformers case disappeared.
A source told the Nation Monday that data in the computer, housed at the NLC’s Department of Valuation and Taxation, had no backup, meaning the new developments would effectively throw verification of the compensation payments in limbo.
Detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission said they were yet to confirm whether some of the missing records relate to investigations at the NLC.
“When we ask the NLC for records on a particular land transaction they always comply,” EACC spokesperson Yasin Amaro told the Nation. “It is too early to tell whether the documents that have gone missing relate to information that we shall need in future.”
Our efforts to get more information on the matter from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and NLC CEO David Kuria were futile as neither had responded to our requests by the time of going to press last evening.
As detectives try to crack the case, the NLC is staring at a fresh storm as a lobby group seeks to have Parliament send home its four commissioners over alleged mismanagement and lack of accountability.
Land Sector Non-State Actors filed a petition before the National Assembly on Friday asking that Prof Swazuri, his deputy Abigail Mbagaya, Mr Isaiah Lenacharu and Mr Abdulkadir Adan Khalif be sent home following a number of issues surrounding compensation, issuance of title deeds, and unconventional changes in committees that aided the loss of millions in taxpayers’ funds.
The developments come barely a month after Prof Swazuri resumed his duties at NLC, after the High Court dismissed an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions to bar him from resuming office pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Insiders at the commission confirmed that the theft was reported Monday, but did not indicate whether it was a break-in or an inside job.
The commission has invited the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate the matter.
“The fact that such sensitive data has no backup is worrying,” the source said last evening. “It is likely to make operations at the commission very difficult. Also to be affected are investigations in the ongoing cases involving frivolous compensation approved in the last few years.”
While such loopholes may see corrupt commission officials cover their trails and walk scot-free, there is also the possibility of unauthorised change of land records, which consequently undermines confidence in property ownership and registration.
Lost, defaced, destroyed, duplicated or even altered records are some of the ills regularly cited by genuine land owners whenever they make complaints on losing out on compensation.
The Valuation and Taxation department undertakes valuations for taxation of land and premiums on immovable property as well as the compulsory acquisition of land for State agencies. It also receives annual ground rents and offers advisory valuation services.
While not disputing the reports, the department’s acting director Joash Oindo declined to comment on the matter and referred the Nation to acting CEO David Kuria.
Mr Kuria disconnected our calls, requesting that we send a text message, which we did.
In the petition to the National Assembly, the Land Sector Non-State Actors lobby group argues that the four commissioners have colluded to pay unwarranted compensations to various companies and individuals, and also irregularly allocated title deeds.
The lobby says some of the compensations include over Sh200 million paid out to two firms — Dahase Investments and Olomotit Estate Limited — Sh400 million for a piece of land along the Eastern Bypass, and Sh1.5 billion in the Ruaraka land saga.
“In many instances, even without having concluded hearings, Prof Swazuri purported to make unreasoned oral determinations and had the same publicised and published in the Kenya Gazette. The processes were conducted with the use of taxpayers’ money and the High Court has, in about 98 per cent (of instances), overturned the Committee’s determinations, with the other two per cent being sustained where parties have entered a consent or withdrawn the claims,” the lobby says.
NLC has been on the spot over its failure to disclose beneficiaries of a Sh2.8 billion compensation payout in the year to June 2016. Already, its embattled chairman and other officials have been charged in court with irregularly paying out Sh221.3 million in standard gauge railway (SGR) land compensation.
Also charged are the commission’s chief executive Chavangi Aziz Tom, two senior directors — Ms Salome Munubi (Valuation and taxation) and Mr Francis Mugo (Finance) — and Ms Gladys Mwikali Muyanga, a land registrar.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.