Land reforms have been ongoing with efforts being made towards a strategic policy formulation. However, the enactment of these laws alone does not guarantee land reform. The National Land Commission, a body mandated by the constitution to oversee this process must be adequately facilitated by the National Government to effectively serve its purpose.
In the 2015/2016 budget, the land sector was allocated Sh27 billion while the National Land Commission (NLC) was given a paltry Sh1 billion against a resource requirement of Sh4 billion. The government has so far issued close to 2.5 million title deeds against a target of 3 million by the next election. It is important to ascertain who the beneficiaries are and whether due process such as survey and adjudication is followed before the titles are handed out.
The Ministry of Lands has been digitizing land records in several registries. A recent survey shows that even with the ongoing digitization, transparency and accountability at the ministry still remains a fallacy. In the 2013/14 financial year, the Auditor General raised queries over Sh888 million that could not be accounted for.
Reform also entails using land as a factor of production. For instance, the 1.75 million acre Galana/ Kulalu food security project, which the government anticipated would cost Sh400 billion, yet the first phase of just 500 acres planted with maize as a pilot project has come a cropper, with a production of 10 bags per acre instead of the projected 40 bags. The project has already gobbled up at least Sh7 billion without any tangible results.
The Sh300 billion standard gauge railway is 50 per cent complete. The national Land Commission chairman Mohammed Swazuri recently appeared before the National Assembly’s Land Committee to answer queries on why building owners were compensated before the owners of the land were paid, which could lead to double compensation.
It emerged that the commission had delegated its mandate of compensation to the Kenya Railways Corporation due to “inadequate staff” and could not say how much of the Sh30 billion set aside for compensation had been spent. Sh400 million is estimated to have been “lost” and 500 squatters and landowners, as well as 1,751 fishermen have not been compensated.
Money has also been misused in the drafting of land Bills in Parliament. A stark example is the task force set up in 2012 to come up with a community land Bill. There are currently three draft Bills and the latest that was debated in Parliament earlier this month is distinctively different from the output of the task force. Public resources were spent on these draft Bills.
Land reforms come with a price tag. The government must invest taxpayer’s funds wisely. It must show real commitment to land reform by providing adequate funding to the National Land Commission to discharge its constitutional mandate.
On 25th April 2016, the Kenya Alliance of Resident Association (KARA) will hold its 48th Bi-Monthly Talk Series at the Laico Regency, with a special focus on the status of land reforms in Kenya. The Theme will be: “Land Reforms in Kenya: What are the Challenges and Gains Realized So Far”. NLC chairman Dr. Mohamed Swazuri is one of the Key speakers and will be joined by Prof. Paul Maringa-PS lands ministry and Mr. Mwendwa Mwakithamo-ED-LDGI