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Legislators Want Uganda Land Commission Disbanded

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For instance, through their lawyers, Leonard Kizito and Francis Kigonya wrote to the ULC Chairperson on January 6th, 2022 requesting Shillings 250 million for their 950 acres of land at Bugangaizi Block, which they sold to ULC at Shillings 950 million that the commission paid in several installments.
19 May 2022 07:31
Officials from the ULC led by Judith Nabakooba (L) the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development appearing before Public Accotbility Committee of Parliament, COSASE. Photo by Dominic Ochola

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Legislators on the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authority and State Enterprises–COSASE have called for the disbandment of the Uganda Land Commission – ULC over the swelling burden of improprieties. The proposal arose from the submissions of the legislators who are investigating allegations of fraud, abuse of office, and negligence that have caused financial loss to the government.

For instance, through their lawyers, Leonard Kizito and Francis Kigonya wrote to the ULC Chairperson on January 6th, 2022 requesting Shillings 250 million for their 950 acres of land at Bugangaizi Block, which they sold to ULC at Shillings 950 million that the commission paid in several installments.

By the time of writing the letter, the claimants noted that only Shillings 700 million with a pending balance of Shillings 250 million. However, they were summoned to the Criminal Intelligence Investigations Department – CIID headquarters in Kibuli, Kampala to explain why their account was about to be credited with Shillings 400 million.

The Committee Chairperson, Joel Ssenyonyi who read a letter during the meeting noted that unknown individuals inflated the figure with the aim of stealing Shillings 150 million from the claimants once their accounts were credited.

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It also emerged that in October 2019, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, through a World Bank-funded project installed the National Land Information System, an online portal where the public could check the validity of land titles but the system was deactivated over accumulated arrears.

Muhammed Muhangi, the Chief Technical Officer of the Uganda Telecommunication Limited– UTL, a Government-owned telecom operator that provides the Commission data link and connectivity surprised the MPs when he disclosed that they deactivated the system due to areas worth Shillings 78.8million.

When the MPs demanded an explanation, the interdicted ULC Chairperson Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki denied any knowledge of the accumulated arrears. She said she was hearing the matter for the first time because it was not brought to their attention.

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The Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Judith Nabakooba also denied knowledge of the arrears prompting the MPs to blame her for failing to take full charge of her Ministry as a supervisor, which has led to several anomalies.

Mpindi Bumali, the National PWD representative noted that during the probe, in January this year, Barabra Imaryo, the ULC Secretary who is also the Accounting Officer made a hasty compensation of Shillings 10.6 billion to six claimants against the recommendation of the Commission.

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Nyakaisiki explained that two of the six claimants paid by Imaryo are non-existent on the list of legitimate claimants, and the Commission has failed to trace their identities. Nebbi Municipality MP Hashim Sulaiman observed that the best solution to restore sanity at the Commission for better service delivery is to have it disbanded because it is characterized by irregular recruitment.

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The Auditor General’s report for the FY 2019/20, revealed that up to Shillings 546 million was budgeted to establish a land inventory or database. As of March 28, 2020, the Commission had already spent Shillings 298million for the purpose. But when asked to produce the list of inventory the officials failed to do so.

In January this year, the Minister of Lands suspended the Commission chairperson Beatrice Byenkya together with Imaryo to pave the way for investigations into allegations of power struggles, mismanagement, and abuse of office at ULC. 

Section 49 of the Land Act, Cap 227 mandates the Commission to hold and manage any land in Uganda which is vested in or acquired by the Government. Under Article 164 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 (as amended) and Section 45 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015, the Accounting Officer is accountable to Parliament for the funds and resources of the Commission.