NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 4 – The Ministry of Lands has unearthed a massive fake title-deed printing racket involving ministry officials.,
Minister James Orengo told a news conference on Thursday that police were investigating several officials suspected to be behind the scam.
Mr Orengo regretted that thousands of Kenyans could be holding fake title deeds and land allotment letters.
“Whenever we have scrutinised the documents presented to us we have found that the people purported to have signed them are not our officers. Sometimes they even get the names of the officers right but miss their signatures,” the minister said.
“On the face of it you think this is a genuine document but it is all generated out there in River Road or somewhere else.”
The ministry has instituted an audit into the magnitude of the problem and expected to release a report in a month’s time.
“The objective of the audit is to detect and weed out any fake documents that may be presented at our branches countrywide,” Mr Orengo disclosed.
Eldoret is most notorious with 54 fake title deeds discovered in recent months. Other affected areas include the central registry in Nairobi and branch registries in Thika, Nyahururu, Kitale, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kwale.
In one case, a parcel of land set aside for the construction of the district lands offices in Eldoret has been grabbed by a private developer and subdivided into plots with the intention of sale. The private developer has already presented a plan to the ministry. Mr Orengo however vowed that the land would be reclaimed.
The minister regretted that land belonging to public institutions had in recent times been grabbed by private developers through the help of senior officials from the institutions.
Land remains a sensitive issue in Kenya and its distribution has been dominated over the years by corruption. The country’s land records are still manual close to fifty years after independence, presenting opportunities for unscrupulous officials to use their positions to enrich themselves.
On taking office Mr Orengo and his Permanent Secretary Dorothy Angote made a pledge to root out corruption in the ministry but nearly a year into the job the two admitted that the vice remains rampant. The minister admitted that the magnitude was historical and difficult to deal with.
Earlier in the year the ministry confessed that it had discovered yet another scam involving the printing of multiple title deeds for the same parcel of lands. Ministry officials were also on the spot again over the hasty transfer of the Grand Regency Hotel.
Mr Orengo said the strongest solution to the vice was the computerisation of the land registry. The entire process is expected to cost around Sh6 billion. Ms Angote said that although the process had been initiated it had be been derailed by inadequate funding.
“We have done the structural drawings and the bills of quantities. We are working very closely with Treasury to secure some funding to pilot the program,” she said.
Mr Orengo added that the draft land policy which has been in the pipeline for long would be piloted once the Cabinet gives approval.