22 May 2018

Uganda: Land Probe - More Evidence On Land Fund Loot Revealed

Kampala — The Commission of Inquiry into land matters has unearthed more rot in the plunder of billions of shillings from the Uganda Land Fund meant for compensation to absentee landlords in the greater Bunyoro area.

Evidence presented on Tuesday before the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led commission shows that the Minister of Lands Betty Amongi instructed the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) chairperson Mr Baguma Isoke and Undersecretary Mr Albert Mugumya to urgently pay eight persons Shs621,067,000 from the ULC account.

She ordered the payment on November 23, 2016, citing authority from the President's Principal Private Secretary Ms Molly Kamukama, her ministry and Finance Minister Mr Matia Kasaija.

The beneficiaries of this payment include Agnes Bagaya who received Shs100m, Pius Bigirimana (Shs50m), Teddy Nansubuga (Shs121m), Sam Seguya (Shs100m) and Dimitilia Katusabe (Shs100m).

Others are: Mzee Kuraish Barinda (Shs50m), Nicholas Jemba (shs60m) and Patrick Zikanshangyiza (Shs60m).

"The purpose of this communication is therefore to authorise the payment of the above beneficiaries. However, I will expect a report on the issues raised in my earlier communication referred to above," Ms Amongi wrote.

Again on October 31, 2016, Ms Amongi directed Mr Mugumya to urgently pay Victoria Kakoko-Sebagereka Shs776m due to ill-health and Mzee Barinda Shs50m on account of old age.

Appearing before the Commission on Tuesday, Mr Zikanshangyiza was interrogated and admitted he received Shs100m out of Shs904m which was the value of his land measuring 264 hectares in Buyaga, Kagadi District.

Mr Zikanshangyiza, a businessman, said he paid Shs200,000 to facilitate the survey and valuation of the land but declined to reveal whom he paid for the work.

"I approached and asked him [ULC chairperson Mr Baguma Isoke] about how to access the Uganda Land Fund and he told me the procedure," Mr Zikanshangyiza said in answer to questions raised by Commissioner Mary Ochan.

Last week, the Commission heard that Kampala lawyer Richard Buzibira duped Ms Nansubuga to sign powers of attorney for him to access the Land Fund money on her behalf.

Ms Nansubuga testified that Mr Buzibira bought her land at Shs270m but instead of signing a sales agreement she was made to sign powers of attorney which the lawyer used to claim more than Shs1.4 billion for the same land.

The Land Fund was established under the Land Act to resolve long standing conflicts between bona fide (legitimate) occupants and absentee landlords.

However businessmen, politicians and government technocrats fraudulently acquired proprietorship of large tracts of land in various parts of the country to gain deceitful compensation under the Land Fund.

The Commission's investigations have revealed abuse of office, influence peddling, mismanagement and blatant plunder of the Uganda Land Fund.

"The Land Fund was established to help people get out of uncertainty in regard to land ownership by addressing historical injustices but instead ULC officials colluded with speculators and shifted from peoples' concerns to money," the Commission's deputy lead counsel Mr John Bosco Suuza observed.

The Commission summoned the Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance Patrick Ocailap to testify on the matter. He is expected to appear on Friday.

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