Court rules Survey boss unfit for job over Karen land scam

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Economy

Court rules Survey boss unfit for job over Karen land scam


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Summary

  • Justice Nelson Abuodha ruled that the Ministry of Lands erred in promoting Polly Wanjiku Gitimu alias Pauline despite the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) recommending charges against her for the fraudulent transfer of the 134-acre land.
  • The judge reckoned the questions over her integrity remained despite the fraud charges having been dropped on a technicality linked to the composition of the EACC board.
  • Ms Gitimu was among officials, including former Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu (now Kitui county governor), who had been charged with facilitating double allocations in the Sh8 billion Karen land, which is claimed by several people.

The Employment Court has declared the acting Director of Surveys unfit to hold public office over her links to fraudulent transfer of a disputed Sh8 billion land in Nairobi’s Karen area.

Justice Nelson Abuodha ruled that the Ministry of Lands erred in promoting Polly Wanjiku Gitimu alias Pauline despite the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) recommending charges against her for the fraudulent transfer of the 134-acre land.

The judge reckoned the questions over her integrity remained despite the fraud charges having been dropped on a technicality linked to the composition of the EACC board.

Ms Gitimu was among officials, including former Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu (now Kitui county governor), who had been charged with facilitating double allocations in the Sh8 billion Karen land, which is claimed by several people.

But the charges were later quashed by the Court of Appeal on a technicality, after the court ruled that the EACC was not properly constituted when it recommended the charges.

“In view of the unresolved issues touching on the 1st interested party (Ms Gitimu) involvement in fraud and corruption, she is unfit to hold the position of Director of Surveys in any capacity,” Justice Abuodha said.

He added that the EACC and the Director of Public Prosecutions approved the fraud charges against Ms Gitimu, a pointer that there was sufficient evidence of her participation in the fraudulent transfer of the Karen land.

Justice Abuodha reckoned that although the ruling by the Court of Appeal in 2015 did not affect Ms Gitimu’s status and the position she may be holding in public service, the allegations are an impediment to her being recommended for elevation or appointment to another public office unless resolved in her favour.

“To ignore these serious allegations and seek to promote the 1st Interested Party [Ms Gitimu] before they are resolved would fly in the face of Chapter 6 of the Constitution and Section 34(2) of the Public Service Act,” the judge said.

Juma Okumu moved to court to challenge Ms Gitimu’s appointment, arguing that her promotion offends Chapter Six of the Constitution on integrity.

He said the EACC investigated the matter and found her culpable of falsifying land documents and fraud in relation to the multi-billion shilling Karen property.

Ms Gitimu was among several suspects charged in court with several counts of forgery and fraudulent transfer of the controversial Karen land.

Mr Okumu told the court that Ms Gitimu was temporarily suspended after the anti-graft body recommended the charges but was secretly reinstated by the Ministry of Lands and promoted to the position of Director of Survey.

Ms Gitimu said the investigations, which were conducted by the EACC, became a nullity in the wake of the decision of the Court of Appeal.

She defended herself saying she remains innocent over the accusations levelled against her unless a court of law determines guilt in a final judgment.

The EACC argued Chapter Six places an obligation on an appointing authority to take into account the integrity of the person being considered for appointment as a public officer.

Justice Abuodha noted that the EACC had confirmed that Ms Gitimu was yet to be cleared of her involvement in the act of falsifying land records and indicated plans to charge her afresh.

“The commission is reviewing the case including the 1st Interested Party’s [Ms Gitimu] which were affected by the Court of Appeal’s decision with a view to reviving the same now that EACC has been properly constituted,” the judge said.

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