Land compensation must not become the new graft cash cow
1 months ago, 26 Maý 00:19
During a visit to Yaoundé, Cameroon, a colleague shared a rather poignant story of how some public officials in one of the regions found themselves either jobless or in jail.
This is what had happened. The government of Cameroon needed to build a road through the region.
Private land needed to be acquired for that purpose. Public officials subsequently visited the countryside to document the affected private land owners for compensation.
The bigger the size of land affected, the more money the owner would receive.
However, officials easily went on a spree, striking deals with the farmers to sign for bigger sizes of land than were actually affected.
And the extra earnings were happily shared all round.
Unfortunately for all involved, the government later commissioned an audit on the compensation payments.
Under interrogation, the farmers sang! They gave every detail of what happened; revealing that the officers had told them to sign for bigger parcels of land and when paid, split the proceeds.
This provided fodder for the dismissal and prosecution of the implicated public officials.
Sad how professionalism can be used against the very society it is meant to serve.
We have had challenges with matters compensation too. The Constitution rightly calls for the compensation for land acquired by the State.
If the enabling provision in the Land Act is well implemented, it ensures a win-win for landowners as well as the State.
However, when there is process abuse and fraud, the State, and hence the public, can lose big.
The compensation process revolves around land experts, particularly surveying and valuation professionals.
Land surveyors should determine and advise on land parcel sizes while valuers advise on the value of the affected parcels.
While surveying is a science, valuation is subjective, though also aided by some guidelines.
However, where there are reliable records and professional honesty, the process should be straightforward.
But without good records and if driven by greed and self-gain, this process is prone to fraud as happened in Cameroon.
Now let us ask: What are the variables that make compensation so easily manipulated?
First is the size of land. Any overstatement translates to undeserved public money. Second is the value.
If a valuer exaggerates value, they convey undeserved public money to the landowner.
Thirdly, team collusion can find compensation paid for public land, or parcels reserved for public use, which otherwise need not be compensated for.
The government should not pay itself. And finally, with collusion, maps can be manipulated to introduce parcels that don’t exist on the ground, against which compensation is paid to ‘proxy’ landowners’.
Where land is unsurveyed and unregistered, it becomes even easier to manipulate sizes and ownership.
Where land is well surveyed and registered, crooks play around with value.
Unlike in the past, compensation on compulsory acquisition of land in Kenya has lately invited contention and concern.
Many multimillion or billion shilling court cases and the significant, at times disproportionate, cost of compensation in mega projects such as the standard gauge railway, LAPSSET, bypasses ...
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