The Commission of Inquiry into land matters has faulted and accused the Lands Minister Betty Amongi of allegedly overstepping her role by turning herself into an accounting officer of the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) in connection to the Land Fund compensations, writes Isaac Baligema.
Appearing before the Commission on Wednesday for the second day to answer questions pertaining the management of the Land Fund, the Lead Counsel Ebert Byenkya put it to the Minister that it was not proper for her to write to the ULC’s Undersecretary Albert Mugumya (Accounting Officer) directing him to pay various people who had their claims in ULC for the Land Fund.
She however defended self noting that her directives and communications to the accounting officer were in respect to ensuring that cabinet decisions and presidential directives are implemented within the specified timeframe.
“I was only acting in the capacity of being Ministry head to ensure that Cabinet decisions and Presidential directives are implemented within the specified period but I was not turning myself into accounting officer for Uganda Land Commission; when we are in Cabinet we are given timeframe under which specific and certain issues must be handled and implemented and I was therefore acting in that capacity,” she stresses.
Just like yesterday, the Minister was engaged for the entire day from as early as 8:35am up to late in the evening!
The Commission informed her that specific individuals were paid regularly billions of money from the Land Fund after buying out interests of the original owners.
“Mr. Richard Buzibira alone; was paid sh13b on behalf of the claimants but we have since discovered that your officers there in Uganda Land Commission take as much 30%-40% on whichever money is paid out! There is total fraud there,” the Commission Lead Counsel Ebert Byenkya told the Minister.
During the proceedings, the Commission revealed to the Minister that the Land Fund is operating illegally because it does not have the minimum legal requirements as prescribed by the law.
“Under the law, for Uganda Land to be operational it has to have designated employees to man, it has to have an account and the source of funds clearly stipulated but all these are not in place! So the Fund is operating illegally,” Byenkya explained to the Minister.
The Minister was quick to respond that the Land Fund is not fully operational and that it is being addressed through a project called ‘support to Uganda Land Commission’ but noted that she will involve the Attorney General and the Minister of Finance to ensure that the legal requirements are addressed.