9 June 2018

Uganda: Govt Valuer Pinned Over Shs 500m Rock Compensation Claims

Interdicted government valuer Moses Magala has come under fire from the Justice Bamugemereire Land Commission over the Shs 132 billion Isimba dam compensation claims.

Magala appeared before the Commission to explain a report he authored recommending the payment of an additional Shs 132 billion to claimants of a rock underneath the Isimba dam project land site. The claimants are Tom Musisi Kazibwe, the former Ntenjeru South MP and Charles Magumba, the former Kayunga town clerk.

They, together with other claimants, are seeking an additional compensation for sand and a rock underneath the 28-acre of land earmarked to host the dam despite receiving compensation back in 2014.

According to the Land Probe, Magala's report has since sparked off several compensation demands for the rock to the tune of Shs 500 billion, which has stalled the project. Several witnesses pinned Magala for coming up with the fictitious compensations.

The most prominent was the former ministry of Lands permanent secretary David Gabindadde-Musoke who accused Magala of coming up with the compensation award single handedly and writing a recommendation to the ministry of Energy without notifying his superiors.

On Thursday afternoon, the Commission tasked Magala to explain how he came up with the figure of Shs 132 billion award. Magala explained that after receiving a complaint from Kazibwe and Magumba demanding compensation for the rock underneath the land they had sold to government, he wrote to the geological department in the ministry of Lands to carry out a survey and assessment of the rock.

According to Magala, he acted on the directive of the chief government valuer, Gilbert Kermundo. He explained that it was the report by the geological department that recommended the Shs 132 billion compensation and formed the basis of his letter to the Energy ministry that he signed on behalf of the permanent secretary.

Ebert Byenkya, the Commission's lead counsel questioned Magala on how he could sign the letter on behalf of the Lands permanent secretary yet he didn't sanction the fresh valuation process. He also tasked Magala to provide evidence showing that Kermundo directed him to carry out the task.

In his defense, Magala said there was no letter since he received verbal instructions from Kermundo to handle the matter. He also defended his decision to sign the letter on behalf of the permanent secretary, saying they had agreed as a ministry that technical officers could act independently.

Byenkya wouldn't have any of this, saying both the former Lands ministry permanent secretary, David Gabindadde-Musoke and chief government valuer, Gilbert Kermundo raised a red flag about Magala's dealings, saying he was insubordinate to authority.

"This new frontier started with you. You actually are the zero human being in this... Your letter is a historical letter to the commissioner [on] August 14, 2014. This marks the beginning of it alone, isn't it? Before this, nobody had even ever gone to value and asses compensation of rocks in the land... I want to know what possessed you, what gave you the idea that these things were compensatable?" Byenkya asked.

John Bosco Suuza, the deputy lead counsel cited an internal memo from the Lands ministry where Magala's bosses were complaining about his conduct.

"Everyone has disowned this report of yours; currently it's your report. You acted without instructions from the chief government valuer. The picture we get is that this whole thing was tainted with corruption, bribery and you had personal interest in these claims," said Suuza.

"Do you appreciate that without you, there would be no law suits against government of Uganda, there would be no massive monetary claims against the government of Uganda. There would be no danger that in future we would not be able to do projects because with your single act you have made projects too expensive for the people of Uganda to keep doing." Suuza added.

However, Magala denied the accusations, saying the statements from his bosses were calculated with the aim of injuring his name.

"Mine was to inquire from the commissioner geology to be advised on the veracity of the claim...It is not entirely true that that was the intension, we innocently consulted the commissioner geology as is required of us given that he has the expertise. And given the instructions I had I did not envisage that that would be the outcome." Magala said.

Commissioner Mary Oduka pinned Magala for authoring the geological report, which recommended the compensation, saying it was financed by a lawyer of one of the claimants.

Commission chairperson Justice Catherine Bamugemereire put to it to Magala that he didn't act in good faith and in favour of government, saying the rock for which he recommended compensation is just 100 meters away from River Nile and is therefore classified as a national resource.

"Particularly you Mr Magala; am told you're telling the whole ministry, terrorising everybody how you're going to come back. How you're going to be the CGV (chief government valuer); how this Kermundo did not fit for the job. After all he just came from a municipal council. [That] you're the expert on rocks. You're terrorising everybody in ministry of Lands telling them you're coming back. You have been exonerated.

Those valuations, those figures are what you want to impose on the government of Uganda. I think it is high time the people of Uganda said, no to people like you. I think it's high time, if, everything that you did, you think is above board did us a favour and became a private valuer." said Bamugemereire.

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