LETTERS: Pick next Land Commission chiefs carefully
One of the key commissions formed under the 2010 Constitution was the National Land Commission (NLC), looking at the thirst for land reforms in Kenya. Last week, the six-year term of the first lot of commissioners ended.It is therefore prudent to evaluate the Commission’s performance based on expected outcomes.Upon its formation, the Commission was expected to professionalise the management of public land through transparent and accountable mechanisms.The collective desire to have the Commission was borne out of the need to address the historical mismanagement of public land in Kenya. Previously, this mandate was vested with the Commissioner of Lands.The NLC traces its origin to recommendation of Njonjo Land Commission for Inquiry of 1999 to develop guidelines and principles of a National Land Policy framework.In defining the mandate of NLC, Chapter 67 of the Constitution provides that the commission shall, among others, manage public land on behalf of the national and county governments, recommend policy, advise the national government, conduct research, and recommend redress.The National Land Commission Act, 2012 gave additional functions and roles to the Commission, which includes compulsory land acquisition. These are quite broad mandates.
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On the management of public land, the commission carries out renewal of expired land leases as well as review of grants and dispositions to public land. The Commission was also to finalise the review of grants and dispositions to public land by May 2017. Reports show they barely scratched the surface.The National Land Policy of 2009 is set to expire before the end of this year and is to be reviewed. It is expected that by now, the Commission should have developed draft policy recommendations.I am not aware how much has been achieved towards this end. Similarly, we are yet to see an advisory on the comprehensive registration of title to land.We have witnessed piecemeal efforts to address historical land injustices without clear recommendations for redress. Cases of historical injustices are many and a comprehensive plan ought to have been developed and implemented within five years of commencement of the Act in 2012. The commission missed the deadline.There is nothing to write home about with regards the other mandates.It so appears that the commission focused on compulsory acquisitions which in this case is referred to as “any other functions assigned by law”.The conduct of the chairman and the commissioners has been under scrutiny, especially regarding integrity, ethical behaviour and unprofessionalism in executing its mandate.There have been allegations of corrupt activities, overvaluations to obtain commissions from the landowners receiving compensation for key projects like the standard gahuge railway (SGR).Kenya Railways has taken the NLC to court to compel them to compensate when funds have been released to them to pay the land owners. The turf wars pitting the chairman and his deputy are not helpful.In my honest assessment, the commission has not met public expectation as far as its mandate is outlined in the Constitution.The commissioners’ failure to live up to expectation can be attributed to several factors.Key among was the many hurdles that were placed in their way from the onset as they were taking up some of the roles that were traditionally performed by the Ministry of Lands. This poor transition meant they wasted the first two years in needless wars. The two institutions play critical and complementary roles.Funding remained a limitation. With the big mandate, underfunding by the Treasury meant they were never going to deliver to expectation, considering the scope, extent and complexity of the issues at hand.Kenyans have learnt what needs to be done for the new team to deliver.It is important that the recruitment is started in earnest. The selection team to be appointed by the President should pay special attention to professional standing in recruitment.