An intervention by the State Law Office in a case that would have seen Kajiado County Government lose Sh 400 M in compensation to a hotel investor at the Amboseli National Park has been fruitful.
The County Government had severally lost a case in which Amboseli Safari Club had sued it for breach of a lease agreement for 70 acres in 2004, slapping the devolved unit with a high stake’s compensation suit.
A section of the lease agreement between the hotel and the defunct Olkejuado County Council provided that the latter would not offer a lease for a hospitality facility within a certain radius.
However, Olkejuado County Council officials led by the then chairman Tarayia Ole Kores breached the agreement and fraudulently gave Ol Tukai Lodge a lease agreement sparking the titanic legal battle.
The court prevailed on the parties to seek arbitration to resolve the matter.
In 2009, the arbitrator John Ohaga awarded the hotel Sh 360 Million in general and special damages after which the hotel would pay the County Government Sh 40M being arrears of rent.
The compensation also included damage for property after Mr Kores and agents of the local authority invaded the property and vandalized the premises in a bid to scare off the investor in favor of Oltukai Lodge.
The arbitrator ordered a 12 per cent annual interest on the award until the money was fully paid.
The court award started attracting interest, an amount that had shot to Sh 800 Million by the beginning of the year.
The first County Government led by former Governor David Nkedianye caused the escalation of the fines after it failed to deposit Sh 40 Million in court, pending the hearing of their appeal.
Following a Judicial review in 2013, the then County Government failed to deposit Sh 100 Million forcing it to cite the then Chief Officer for Finance Morris Kaaka for contempt for failing to pay the deposit and thus escalating the accruing interests further.
When it became clear that there was no probability of legal success against the hotel, Governor Joseph Ole Lenku sought the intervention of the National Government with the State Law Office coming in to hammer an out of court agreement that would save Kajiado residents more than Sh 400 Million in interests.
The Governor dispatched County Attorney Augustine Sekeyian and the Finance CEC Member Alais Kisota to join the Solicitor General Ken Ogeto for the high-level negotiations.
The Sh 800 Million debt was flagged off by the Auditor General and was emotionally debated by the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee when the Governor appeared before it in July last year.
Senators Ochilo Ayacko (Migori), Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) expressed outrage at the growing monster of the court award that would eventually lead to loss of public money.
“This is a monster that is growing heads and legs. Without urgent intervention, Kajiado people will lose a lot of money,” said Mr Ayacko.
Mr Kang’ata was blunt. “The escalation of the award and the accruing interest must be tamed. This shows a lot of negligence and impunity on the part of the former County Council officials and the first County Government which had an opportunity to resolve the matter amicably,” said Kang’ata.
Yesterday, Governor Lenku said it was a relief that the County Government would not lose colossal amounts of money due to impunity of former officials.
“We are committed to correct the ills of yester years. This is a hole that we were put in due to lack of sensitive leadership those years,” said Lenku
“I thank the State Law Office for midwifing the agreement that will save our taxpayers money,” said the Governor.
Mr Kisota said the County had allocated Sh 100 Million in its current budget as the first installment payment to pay off the award.