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MCAs call for disbandment of Nairobi's urban planning committee over illegal approvals

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Nominated MCA Nasra Nanda expressed concern over the sensitive nature of these approvals being discussed outside a government building without proper authorisation.

Nairobi County's Urban Planning Technical Committee (UPTC) has been put on the spot over the committee mandated to give the green light to building approvals in the capital.

The Nairobi County Assembly Sub-Committee on Planning chaired by Nominated MCA Nasra Nanda has been probing building approvals made in the city since the Johnson Sakaja-led administration came to office in 2022.

After having a series of committee meetings, it was disclosed that on March 8, 2024, the governor led a meeting in one of his private offices where 154 building plans were discussed, with 131 of them approved.

The Assembly committee deemed these approvals illegal as they were not sanctioned in the governor's office, a function that should be overseen by the County Executive Committee (CEC) responsible for urban planning.

Nasra expressed concern over the sensitive nature of these approvals being discussed outside a government building without proper authorisation.

"Given the nature of the approvals, which consist of very sensitive information, government documents need to be looked at within a government building, unless there is something formal that allows these meetings with sensitive documents to be held elsewhere. I would say that it is highly subject to correction that this is not appropriate," she said.

The CEC for Urban Planning, Stephen Mwangi acknowledged that conducting the approval meeting in a private office violated the law.

Nairobi County Executive Committee Member (CEC) for Urban Planning and Housing Stephen Mwangi during a committee sitting at the county assembly on May 9, 2024. (Photo: Maureen Kinyanjui)

"I would say that what has been done is not within the law because the law is very clear," he said.

"Strangers" in committee

In addition to that, the Nasra-led Committee also heard that there are two individuals who sit in the Urban Planning Committee despite not being members and qualifications in the sector.

When questioned why the two individuals had been attending the committee sittings, CEC Mwangi told the MCAs that he couldn't bar them, because they were from the Governor's Office.

"They are on the committee with the blessings of the governor," he said.

Alvin Olando Palapala, who is the chairperson of the planning committee questioned why the CEC would allow 'strangers' to sit in the committee to which the county executive said he was subordinate to the governor.

"If he asks someone to attend a meeting, I have no power. I have no power to say no...legally, they are not supposed to sit in this committee, but when it comes to the current situation and they have been asked to sit, I have very little or no power to say otherwise," Mwangi explained.

The CEC urged the county assembly to establish clear guidelines for committee participation to prevent accusations of disobedience against CECs.

Nairobi County Assembly Sub-Committee on Planning chairperson Nasra Nanda during a sitting on May 9, 2024. (Photo: Maureen Kinyanjui)

As a result, the assembly's committee called for the disbandment of the governor's planning committee, formed without the assembly's knowledge, and demanded CEC involvement in the technical committee's formation.

They also requested the list of building permits issued by the county government since Governor Sakaja took office.

Members of the Governor's Urban Planning Technical Committee include CEC Mwangi, Chief Officer Patrick Analo, Director of Development Management Dominic Mutegi, Director of Planning and Compliance Tom Achar, Engineer Mike Waweru, Geoffrey Cheruiyot, Mackline Saitera, Josphine Nater, and Stephen Mwadime, among others.

The UPTC, under the county's Lands, Housing, and Urban Planning docket, was tasked with reviewing and approving development applications.

It is a requirement of relevant sector-building laws that developers hire and retain the services of qualified and registered professionals to be involved in the project process from inception and during construction.

These professionals include Urban Planners, Architects, Surveyors, and Structural Engineers.

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