Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Mainga is on the spot for irregular leasing of hundreds of acres of land belonging to the corporation to individuals throughout his tenure even as his fate as chief executive hangs in a balance.
Mainga’s official three-year term ended on January 20. He has however spent five years at the helm of the corporation since he took over from Atanas Maina who was coincidentally fired over land issues in August 2018.
Nevertheless, Mainga is still in office as a fierce fight on whether to add him to another term and who will replace him in case he is sent home continues in the background within government circles.
Those who are pushing for the extension of Mainga’s contract to the year 2026 had handed him another contract secretly. Their plans have however collapsed after President William Ruto vetoed the move leading to a standoff.
This is why Mainga’s purported contract extension is yet to be gazetted. more than two months after it was signed. The government is also yet to comment on the matter and an acting MD is yet to be appointed either.
Among the people salivating for Mainga’s position is James Siele, the business and commercial manager plus Millicent Omido who is the operations general manager. Siele is being pushed by politicians from Rift Valley while Omido has the backing of ANC and Ford Kenya.
Mainga on the other hand is relying on his deep pockets and experience in order for his tenure to be extended. He has since the beginning of the year put up a fierce fight through Digital Mara, previously Pri Media Limited to prevent the story of the drama surrounding his contract extension from making it to the media.
Sauce.co.ke is aware that Digital Mara has threatened media houses from running any stories surrounding Mainga’s contract extension failure to which Kenya Railways will pull out advertisements.
Digital Mara, whose stakeholders include senior officials in the Transport Ministry during the Uhuru administration was just before last year’s election handed a 10-year advertisement contract with Kenya Railways. The contract gives the company full control of advertising at stations belonging to Kenya Railways.
Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen who found Kenya Railways in the hands of powerful cartels has since last year faced a lot of difficulty in dismantling them as most of them are well connected in the current administration.
Last Tuesday the CS had his way when he degazetted retired general Owudho Awitta as the chairperson of the corporation. In his place he hired Muhumed Abdi Mohamed as the new chairman.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Roads and Transport appoints— MUHUMED ABDI MOHAMED to be the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Kenya Railways Corporation, for a period of three (3) years, with effect from the 10th February 2023. Gazette Notice No. 8799/2022 is revoked,” the CS announced in a Gazette Notice.
Awitta is among a list of military individuals who were appointed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta to occupy plum government positions. He served in the Kenya Defense Forces as well as the Kenya Navy and the Department of Defense Headquarters in different capacities.
With the Kenya Railways board under a new chairperson, heads are expected to start rolling as the Kenya Kwanza administration consolidates its grip on Kenya’s oldest parastatals. It is also one of the biggest land owners.
One of the issues the board is expected to handle is the irregular allocation of hundreds of acres belonging to Kenya Railways to individuals and companies through questionable leases in the last three years.
A whistleblower’s report which has been handed to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) says that Mainga has for instance caused the loss of over Sh400 million to Kenya Railways through the leasing of Kenya Railway’s land in Makongeni, Nairobi.
“He did this with the full knowledge that Kenya Ports Authority had taken over the property in October 2018 without formal handing over,” says the report.
“The property was being used by Kenya Railways to earn Sh23 million a month and to date, KR has lost over Sh400 million in form of transport of containers to the ICDN,” it says.
Mainga is also accused of leasing out KR land on September 2018 to Taff International under the pretext that the board had in January 26, 2018 approved this lease.
The MD also approved the lease of five acres belonging to Kenya Railways to Harvest International for 15 years on October 2, 2018. While issuing this particular lease, Mainga through a letter of offer claimed that KR board had in their 410th meeting on September 26 approved this lease.
“Given that the land is in an operational zone, he failed or ignored to check with the relevant department whether leasing of the land will conflict with the current or future railway operations,” says the report.
President Ruto launches the construction of Railway City in September last year. The project is yet to start as several pieces of land on where it stands were leased out irregurarly
Other companies that are said to have benefited from the irregular leases include Kokotoni Investments, Mapset Maritime ltd and Multiple Solutions Limited.
The Managing Director is also accused of occasioning the subdivision and leasing of Siwani Estate in Nakuru, Sleeper Press Land, Athi River Logistics Hub and the Nairobi South Hub.
All these subdivisions and irregular leases are said to have been done with the full knowledge of senior officials at the Transport Ministry in the last government who chose to look the other way.
Kenya Railways is already on the spot over the alleged irregular allocation of more than 544 parcels of public land to individuals. Its senior managers appeared two weeks ago before the National Assembly Public Investments Committee on Commercial Affairs and Energy, where they were put to task to provide evidence that the process was legal.
According to a report of the audited accounts of KRC for the financial year 2018/2019, the Commissioner of Lands and the defunct local authorities allocated the land to third parties without the consent of the corporation.
The committee heard that a three-acre piece of land at the Limuru Railway Station, a two-acre piece at the Kikuyu Railway Station, and parcels of land adjacent to the Mombasa station measuring between 0.75 and one acre have been irregularly given out.
“Further, another 529 parcels of land have been illegally allocated across the country. However, management has sought court intervention to repossess twenty-seven (27) parcels of land,” read the Auditor General’s report.
The committee sought to know whether the land issued out was initially owned by the corporation and the amount in land rates accrued from the properties.
“Kenya Railways issued leasehold grants to interested developers for the development of go-downs and warehouses for a term of 99 years with effect from 1st June 1948. The leases were later registered with the Commissioner of Lands. The grantees pay basic land rent to the corporation which holds the freehold interest over the properties,” said Mainga.
The MD is this week expected to face parliament for the second time.
Editor’s Note: This story is credited to its original publisher-Sauce.co.ke
The story was first published by https://sauce.co.ke/2023/04/philip-maingas-land-deals-haunt-him-as-his-fate-as-kenya-railways-md-hangs-in-a-balance/