Uganda: Custodian Board Probes Ownership of Asian Assets

Soroti — The custodian board has launched investigations into ownership of properties formerly in the hands of government and those of the departed Asians in Soroti District.

The chairperson divestiture committee of the custodian board, Dr Abdul Byakatonda, yesterday confirmed that the intervention is meant to safeguard government properties from fraudsters.

He said the process will expose imposters, who claim ownership of properties without substantial documents.

"We are here to make sure we clean up all the properties in Soroti. There has been a lot of fraud and theft of government properties," Dr Byakatonda said.

"We want to verify all the properties in order to screen imposters from genuine property owners," he added.

Dr Byakatonda said districts have been incurring liabilities to pay court charges to compensate fraudsters who connive to stage-manage court cases for selfish gains with intent to burden districts to pay costs.

He said this has caused districts to compromise service delivery in order to meet court charges.

"We have no ill intentions but to have a smooth process that can help us mitigate liabilities that are likely to come as a result of these properties. We want to handle this matter as the controlling authority," Dr Byakatonda said.

Some of the properties in question formerly housed district administrators while others are those of the departed Asians.

More than 150 properties have so far been listed for investigation and Dr Byakatonda is hopeful the district will identify more properties.

Committee members

On Monday, the board established a committee of 11 members headed by the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr William Wilberforce Tukei, to verify claims of ownership.

Other members on the committee include the LC5 chairperson, Mr George Michael Egunyu, the Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Henry Ggamba, the mayor Soroti Municipality, Mr Paul Omer, the chairperson land board, district registrar of lands, the chairperson business community, Mr Charles Elasu, the town clerk, Mr Moses Otimong, physical planners, district police commanders and the District Information Officer.

Mr Tukei said his committee will verify all the properties in town, including those purportedly owned by individuals for purposes of recognition by the custodian board to reduce land conflicts.

Mr Elasu said ownership of such property is only recognised as genuine when the custodian board has issued an approval.

Ownership dispute

Mr Ggamba said there are more than 70 houses in Soroti whose ownership is being disputed, among those is the structures on plot 37 on Gweri Road.

"Plot 37 is one of the two cases that are in court," he said.

The other plot under contention is Plot 14, former Naro offices in Soroti Town.

Mr Ggamba said the committee will not reveal the location of other structures that are being investigated until the probe is completed.

He further said the district has not yet paid out any money in court settlements.

Mr Otimong said he needed to go through his files to ascertain the locations of the disputed Asian houses in the heart of Soroti Town.

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