Uganda: MPs Probe List of Government Officials Named in Asian Properties Case

A committee of Parliament is scrutinising a list of people including Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda's Ambassador to China, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, and many other former and current top government officials accused of influencing the Divestiture Committee of the Departed Asians Properties to sell them or their colleagues some of the properties at giveaway price or other favourable terms of payment.

The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) is also investigating information that besides some of the named buyers purchasing the properties below the reserve price, many of them have not completed the payments to date.

Dr Rugunda, Dr Kiyonga and several others have their names on the list submitted by a whistleblower from within the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board (DAPCD).

Investigations

Cosase has set up a task force chaired by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi to do the investigations.

The team is investigating how many departed Asians properties that were never reclaimed by the original owners, and properties whose owners were compensated by government have been dubiously repossessed or acquired by private individuals in Uganda.

The Asians were expelled from Uganda in 1972 on orders of then president Idi Amin.

Other people named on the list include Science and Technology Minister Elioda Tumwesigye, State Minister for Trade Michael Werikhe Kafabusa, former prime minister Kintu Musoke, former Agriculture Minister Hope Mwesigye, former State minister for Finance in charge of General Duties, the late Basoga Nsadhu, and former Speaker of Parliament, the late James Wapakhabulo.

The matter was introduced yesterday by Mr Kasozi during a committee interface with the DAPCB board members led by Finance minister Matia Kasaija.

Mr Kasozi said it is intriguing to find that departed Asians properties were sold at below the reserve price but the purchasers have never completed payment.

"I have the list here. It has the Honorable Michael Werikhe, the Honorable Elioda Tumwesigye and Dr Kiyonga" Mr Kasozi said before asking Mr Werikhe who was present to respond to the allegation.

"I don't know about that," Mr Werikhe, who is DAPCB board member, said. He was handed the document to read it.

The minister uttered no word after seeing his name on the list.

When asked by MPs whether he would withdraw the properties from the purchasers who acquired them through influence peddling by government officials and have never completed payment, Mr Kasaija said the board would take a decision.

"Automatically I would withdraw the properties if it is found out to be true," Mr Kasaja said.

The whistleblower's dossier indicates that Dr Rugunda, Kintu Musoke, Mr Werikhe, Ms Hope Mwesigye, the late Wapakhabulo and the late Basoga Nsadhu did not purchase any property but allegedly wrote to DAPCB's Divestiture Committee introducing the buyers or seeking extension of the period in which to complete payment.

Dr Rugunda is alleged to have used his positions of minister for Presidency and minister of Information to influence the selling of Plot 13 LRV 197 Madros Gardens, Kampala to Charles Kabambuzi and Plot 138 LRV 121 Kabale Road to Kigezi Tuimuke Co Ltd. "Hon Ruhakana Rugunda (then) minister in-charge of Presidency and later Minister of Lands requested the chairman of the Divestiture Committee to give [the buyer] three months extension to pay up," the whistleblower alleges in the dossier.

Mr Werikhe is alleged to have used his influence as State minister for Works at the time to help "his constituents" N.K. Walala and W.K. Mabbesi to buy Plot 16, LRV 224 on Nkokonjeru Road in Mbale at Shs20m instead of the reserve price of Shs30m. The two took about six years to complete payment.

Dr Kiyonga, who has held different portfolios in government, is alleged to have bought three properties below the reserve price and helped Mr Swaleh Musenene to buy Plot 5, LRV 516 in similar circumstances.

It is alleged all that happened when he was Minister of Health between 1996 and 2001.

Allegations

Dr Kiyonga is also alleged to have influenced the Divestiture Committee on the departed Asians properties to ignore the highest bidders in the purchase of Plot 15A, LRV374 at Shs400, 000 instead of Shs2.3m reserve price; Plot 12B, LRV150 at Shs500, 000 far below the reserve price of Shs2.3m and Plot 8, LRV 171 in Katwe-Kabatoro Town Council (Kasese District) at Shs200,000 instead of Shs1m reserve price.

Current Science and Technology Minister, Dr Tumwesigye allegedly used his senior position in the ministry of Health in 1995 to buy Plot 16 LRV 319 on Tagore Crescent in Kampala at Shs25m after fighting off a one John Byahangiirwe who had submitted a bid of Shs22m at the time the property was advertised.

Some of the people listed in the whistleblower's dossier are now dead but Mr Kasozi told Daily Monitor yesterday that those still alive will be summoned by the investigating committee to explain their role in the suspected scam.

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