10 November 2012

Uganda: Housing Project Stalls as Land Remains Idle

Kampala — Chances for the Nakawa- Naguru housing project to start remain in God's mercy as the government has not yet handed over the two sites' land titles to the developer.

According to a consultant with Opec Prime Properties, the firm that won the tender to redevelop the two pieces of land totaling to 66hectares, Uganda's ministry of local government has not handed over the two land titles which has deterred them from starting the project.

"My clients have signed a memorandum of understanding with two construction firms to carry out the work but such development cannot kick off before our land lords {Government] have handed over the site to us," said the consultant.

According him, work was supposed to kick off in 2007 when Opec Prime Consult signed an agreement with the Government on October 15/2007 to develop the two sites within four years.

He said by now, the developer could have completed the first phase of constructing 1750 apartment units as it was stipulated in the contract.

This controversial deal which was signed by the former permanent secretary Mr. Vincent Ssekono and Mr. Brian Comer a director with Opec Prime Properties Ltd stipulated that Opec will manage the two pieces of land on lease basis for a period of 99years.

In the agreement, Opec was supposed to develop the two sites in a period of 10 years and would be responsible to source for funds to finance the construction process.

It was agreed the government would not provide any direct assistance to fund for the re-development.

When asked, the consultant said their firm has enough money to fund the project. He dispelled claims that the government's reluctance to hand them the land title is due to the fact that the company is broke and cannot handle the project.

"The developer has enough financial support to handle the project. This one is a small project compared to what the developer has implemented in other parts of the world like in the United Kingdom.

"There are also many international financial institutions willing to support us," said the consultant while defending the developer's capacity to deliver.

According to a letter that was written by Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni to the Minister of Local government Adolf Mwesigye dated July /6/2012 and seen by East African Business Week, he directed the ministry to hand over the site with immediate effect to the developer.

"The endless saga about whether Comer group has the capacity to develop the site must come to an end.

"There is a simple litmus paper test. Since they now have the site and it stipulates what they must implement, we should wait and see whether they will fulfill the bench marks or not," reads part of Museveni's letter addressed to the minister of local government.

In response the minister wrote to M/S Opec Prime Properties assuring them that the government had taken a decision to implement the project without delay.

"The ministry has there for recommended on the implementation of Naguru Nakawa projects on the guidance of the President and as ministry we shall call for Ministerial and other Agencies responsible to see how the project will be implemented basing on the contract signed between government and the developer" reads part of the letter addressed to M/S Opec properties signed by the Acting Permanent Secretary ministry of Local Government Mr. Patrick Mutabwire.

However, following the president's directive the ministry has not responded positively.

According to some individuals who are familiar with the project indicate that there are a big chunk of government personnel who never wanted the site to be taken over by the Opec Prime properties.

'"Imagine the president directed the ministry to hand over the site.... why is it up to now they're still holding the site if they think the developer can't perform up to their expectation," John Musisi a resident of Naguru asked.

When the EABW contacted local government ministry officials as to why they have not handed over the site to the developer, our efforts were futile as none of the officials wanted to comment.

The ministry permanent secretary did not want to talk to this writer referring him to his commissioner in charge of Urban Inspection Mr. Abbey Iga who put the writer to the waiting list.

"That issue is very big as ministry we need to have general meeting with all the Government institutions responsible for such issues when the meeting is over then we shall call the press for the briefing on the ministry's position," the commissioner said.

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