Anti-corruption watchdog launches lifestyle audit of Lands Ministry officials

Panic has gripped staff at the Ministry of Lands after the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission started a lifestyle audit of officials in a bid to end escalating illegal deals.

The anti-corruption watchdog is targeting employees who live beyond their known means. The commission says it has been forced to carry out the audit, describing the Lands offices as a theatre of corruption.

“We have land officials colluding with fraudsters to make illegal transfers of private land, especially targeting the elderly. Many families have been evicted from their land, while the transfers were made without their knowledge. We have also seen an increase in cases where recovered public land is being allocated to other beneficiaries,” said EACC spokesperson Eric Ngumbi.

The move comes at a time when several land officials are on the spot for illegal transactions involving plots worth millions of shillings across the country. Some of the officials on the EACC’s radar are officials at the ministry’s headquarters in Nairobi and Land Registry officials who have become overnight millionaires.

A lifestyle audit is supported by Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, which requires that State and public officials should at all times be able to account for their wealth or lifestyle.

“The commission will ask them to explain the sources of their wealth, failure to which they will forfeit the money or assets to the State,” Mr Ngumbi explained.

He said the lifestyle audit will indirectly be extended to relatives and cronies of the Ministry of Lands officials. Mr Ngumbi argued that the move to conduct a lifestyle audit will deny officials the opportunity to enjoy ill-gotten wealth.

“It is a powerful and effective tool in the fight against corruption. When you take away their stolen property, it removes their motivation to continue corrupting,” Mr Ngumbi added. He said that in Central Kenya alone — Nyeri, Nyandarua and Nanyuki towns — the commission is trying to recover public land worth Sh1.2 billion whose ownership is illegal.

He revealed that the Central Kenya region has been worst hit by the grabbing of public land, which has now extended to the theft of land belonging to the elderly through collusion with Land Registry officials.

The commission is also concerned about budgeted corruption and emerging new corruption trends in collusion between the county executive and county assemblies.

Mr Ngumbi said the new trend involves the budgeting of either completed or non-existent development projects involving a racket of county executives and MCAs.

“The county assemblies have failed in their oversight role. They have become part of the corruption in county governments. This corruption includes budgeting for non-existent projects in the 2024/2025 financial year. The targeted projects are awarded to the MCAs, their relatives, cronies and those from the executive, but we are aware and we are watching,” he said.

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