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Regency value mystery continues

NAIROBI, September 11 – An Independent Valuer appointed by the Commission of Inquiry probing the sale of the Grand Regency hotel has valued the public asset at Sh2 billion, according to a source at the commission.

Timothy Njehia of Crystal Valuers presented his report on Thursday but the Commission Chairman Retired Justice Majid Cockar ruled that lawyers be given time to study the report, which will now be discussed on Monday.

“I am afraid this is a big document you have given us, valuers can understand it at a glance but we may need days to understand it,” Cockar stated.

“Valuation evidence will be taken on Monday 15th September.”

The true value of the asset that was sold at Sh2.9 billion has remained a puzzle following three contradictory figures presented before the commission.

Value Zone Company said the hotel is worth Sh1.6 billion while Lloyd Masika put the figure at Sh1.7 billion, and the government’s Chief Valuer Anthony Mateng’e on the other hand valued it at Sh2 billion.

There has been disquiet among the lawyers after the Lloyd Masika and Value Zone reports appeared similar in wording and compilation.

According to the source who spoke on condition of anonymity, Crystal’s report too was similar to the other two.

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However, appearing before the Commission again on Thursday, Lands Minister James Orengo insisted that hotel is worth more than Sh4 billion.

Testifying for the second day, Orengo claimed that the public asset was ‘thrown away’.

“What the purported owners paid for was in my estimation not the true value. And the fact that the law was not followed has raised concerns that the sale was not legitimate,” Orengo intimated.

The Lands Minister insisted that the Central Bank of Kenya and Treasury were at fault over the sale.

He said he was infuriated by former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, who misled the public into believing that the asset had not been sold.

“My starting point was the statement made that the hotel had not been sold.”

Orengo blew the whistle over the sale and accused Kimunya of disposing of the asset cheaply and secretly.

Besides the statement, Orengo is yet to implicate the former Finance Minister in any wrongdoing.

Kimunya’s lawyer Professor Githu Muigai is expected to cross-examine the whistle blower on Friday and he has indicated that he was well prepared.

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“We will take a maximum of one hour, but we can do with 45 minutes if the Minister cooperates,” Muigai said before the commission adjourned on Thursday.

The Cockar team was appointed by President Mwai Kibaki after Kimunya bowed to public pressure and resigned at the height of the controversy surrounding the sale of the hotel.

It was mandated to investigate the role played by the Kipipiri legislator, CBK Governor Njuguna Ndung’u and the bank’s Secretary Kennedy Abuga.

19 witnesses have testified but none has adversely referred to Kimunya.

All evidence indicates that the sale was a government to government affair backed by top state officials.

Abuga told the commission that the bank just took advantage of the ‘godsend’ opportunity to recover its loan.

Orengo has since dismissed this assertion, noting that if that were the case the Cabinet and the Attorney General would have been involved.

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