9 December 2012

Uganda: Masaka Fishy Land Deal Sucks in ISO, Police

The Internal Security Organization (Iso) and the Police have taken over an investigation into a corruption scandal in Masaka Municipal Council involving the purchase of a Shs 120m piece of land.

According to a source 'familiar with the investigation', the two security agencies joined the probe after a whistleblower appealed to the Masaka DISO's office. The scandal involves the purchase of a 20-acre piece of land at Bulando in Buwunga sub-county which was meant to be the municipality's garbage dumping ground.

Masaka Municipal Council paid Shs 120m to Robert Kisozi, the councillor for Nyendo-Ssenyange division, despite objections from the Masaka mayor, Godfrey Kayemba. The councillors, led by Kayemba initially pointed an accusing finger at the municipal contracts committee chair Emmanuel Gacharo, who they suspect connived with Kisozi to inflate the price of the land. Others argued that Bulando site was very far from the town.

"If we have been failing to take the garbage to Bwala which is within the municipality, the town is then going to rot because Bulando, 14km from the town is too far," Kayemba said.

Prior to the purchase, the municipal executive committee had set 4km from the town centre as the limit for a dumping site. However, Masaka Town Clerk, Johnson Munono Baryantuma, insisted that the dumping site is only 2km from the municipality.

"I measured it [the distance] and I got 2km," Baryantuma told The Observer when confronted with evidence that the place was well beyond Kitovu, which is 7km from Masaka.

Baryantuma is also suspected to have paid off the councillors. Our source reveals that a section of councillors received Shs 100,000 each, before the November 14 council meeting, which passed the controversial motion to buy the Bulando land.

Baryantuma, however, denied paying off any councillor.

"Procurement of that land went through the legal procurement procedures, I have a report from the [Municipal] engineer, the environment officer, and a valuation report clearing the procurement of that land," Baryantuma.

The price of the land is said to have been inflated because a 38-acre piece of land adjacent to it was bought by a Masaka businessman, a one Muyanja, at Shs 20m.

"How could he have bought a piece of land that is almost double the size we have bought at a figure which is about six times less" Kayemba wondered.

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