Nairobi County 'staff sabotaging building approval system for bribes’

Florence Nyole

Architectural Association of Kenya President Florence Nyole. The association says Nairobi City County staff have interfered with the building approval system in order to extract bribes from developers who are forced to apply manually.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Nairobi City County government is under scrutiny after it emerged that unscrupulous staff have been overlooking construction regulations to approve building plans despite developers failing to meet the requirements.

Details of the scheme were laid bare during an ongoing probe by the Nairobi City County Assembly Planning Committee chaired by Kitisuru MCA Alvin Palapala on illegal construction in the city.

During the committee hearing, Architecture Association of Kenya (AAK) officials led by president Florence Nyole said county officials had deliberately interfered with the automated approval system, forcing developers to physically seek approvals from the urban planning department. It is during this process that the staff solicit money to approve construction.

Ms Nyole said as a result of the interference with the system, it now takes developers between nine and 12 months before they get approval instead of 60 days. Those who need approval faster are expected to part away with some unknown amount of cash to get it.

“We do not know where this is coming from since this is an online system that should be operating seamlessly for developers to seek approvals. We submitted our request for approval to the county government but we have never received any feedback and this affects operations of developers,” Ms Nyole told the committee.

The officials have also been frustrating some developers by asking them to apply for a change of user while others are allowed to go on without the document.

The Urban Planning Technical Committee, which gives approvals for the construction of buildings was also fingered for approving buildings contrary to zoning policies.

According to Ms Brenda Nyawara, the AAK member in the committee, county officials usually provide approvals even after the committee has rejected them.

“We usually sit down as a committee and after probing, we approve and disapprove buildings and give reasons. In some cases, we get surprised when we disapprove buildings and in the next meeting the building has already been approved without any explanation. This has been going on for some time now. Whenever we seek an explanation, it is always recorded in the minutes without action,” she said.

The county was also accused of approving the changing of users without allowing adequate time for residents to give their views.

“When we see notices of the change of user in our neighbourhoods, it is already approved. When we follow up, we are given 14 days to protest the change of user by writing to the county executive in charge but when we go to the county executive, the change of user has already been approved,” said a county resident.

Mr Palapala said the revelations raise safety concerns for the city residents as the country experiences El Nino rains.

Acting County Secretary Patrick Analo, who doubles up as the Built Environment Chief Officer said: “We want those with information on illegal constructions to come forward so that the county can reign in on these developers.”