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Stakeholders call for caution in selection of land boards members

Stakeholders in the land sector have lauded the speedy measures announced by Lands and Physical Planning Cabinet Secretary, Prof Jacob Kaimenyi, to reconstitute lands boards.

But they are warning him not create room for corruption by letting provincial administrators and politicians hijack the process. Early last week, Kaimenyi announced the process of reconstituting the first 10 land boards had started.

“Reconstitution of fresh boards is part of our commitment as the ministry in trying to minimise corruption. To start with, we are gazetting 10 boards today,” said Kaimenyi.

The CS had dissolved all Land Control Boards across the country in April this year to pave way for the appointment of new boards. While announcing the dissolution of the boards, Prof Jacob Kaimenyi blamed graft allegations alongside overstaying in office.

A fortnight ago, the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) lamented that, in the absence of the boards, the government was losing billions of shillings in stamp duty charged during land transactions.

“The dissolution of the boards has also crippled land professionals’ operations,” ISK chair Stephen Ambani said, adding that absence of the boards had affected other sectors of the economy.

But reacting to the new appointments this week, Ambani said: “Delay in reconstituting the boards have made innocent Kenyans suffer.

Tax revenue collections have slackened. We have faith in him”. According to the chairman of the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), Gad Opiyo when clients are unable to complete their land transactions, they are unable to commission an architect to begin design work on the land. “This results in lost business opportunities,” he said.

Opiyo said title deeds are required to produce proof of ownership at plan approval stage at the county head offices and for NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority). “Many projects are thus delayed when the land owners cannot produce title deeds,” he added.

Last month for instance, Prof Stanley Walubengo of JKUAT failed to dispose a plot in the outskirts of Thika town because of the absence of the land board.

He says the prospective buyer walked away disappointed, fearing next time the cost of the plot was likely to escalate. The disbandment had also impacted on business and tax collections.

According to Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) officials, stamp duty pegged at two per cent for the seller, and tax of five per cent paid by the buyer has declined. Meanwhile, a land lobby group has cautioned Prof Kaimenyi to tread carefully in appointment of land board members as the selection process may offer corruption a second chance.

“The boards had become a law unto themselves,” says the chairman of the Land Development and Governance Institute, Ibrahim Mwathane.“People were literally at the mercy of boards members.

I’m still shocked at the conflict of interests the board members had; some of them had transformed into land agents and were charging fees,” he says. He said old practice where provincial administrators and politicians picked their cronies to fill the positions need to be discouraged.

“Lets’ not offer favours to friends, relatives and political foot soldiers. There should be evidence the positions were advertised by the counties, the public is aware at various village platforms and that the process is transparent,” he said.

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