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Account for Shs13b before you get more, MPs tell Bamugemereire land probe

Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire (FILE PHOTO)

A section of lawmakers have insisted that the Commission of Inquiry into land matters must account for Shs13 billion it received from the Ministry of Finance before receiving an extra Shs7 billion despite Speaker Rebecca Kadaga barring them from the move.

About a month ago, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Secretary to the Treasury, blocked a request from the Commission for more Shs7 billion, until they provide accountability.  However, on Monday, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told MPs on the Physical Infrastructure Committee that demanding for accountability of Shs13b and an interim report would delay completion of the commission’s work.

Nevertheless, the legislators maintain that accountability should be provided or else tax payers lose huge sums of money.

“We are the appropriating authority, we set the terms because the Shs13b we have given them is a lot of money so they should justify why we should give them more,” said Busiro East MP Medard Segona. Sseggona on Tuesday.

Bukomansimbi Woman MP Veronica Nanyondo also insisted that the Land Probe must be transparent.

“Transparency and Accountability makes one or Commissions be assessed whether the money that was given out to do certain work yielded a good or bad impact towards society or country development,” she said.

Led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, the seven-member Commission was set up in 2016 to look into the effectiveness of the law and processes of land acquisition, administration, management and registration in Uganda following increasing land conflicts. They effectively began work on May 3, 2017.

President Museveni poses with the seven members that make the Commission of Inquiry into land matters on December 8, 2016.(COURTESY PHOTO)

However, the manner in which the Commission spends money has raised eyebrows among officials from the Ministry of Finance, including the Permanent Secretary, Mr Keith Muhakanizi. Sources said the commissioners are paid about $200 (about Shs720,000) per sitting and  $690 (about Shs2.5m) per day whenever they travel abroad. The team has already been to Ghana, United Kingdom, and South Africa. In each country, they have spent about seven days, which translates into about Shs470m for the seven commissioners.

And now Physical Infrastructure Committee chairperson George Nsamba (Bbale County) insists that an accountability report must be handed to Parliament.

“Before we approve any further requests, can the Lands Minister first provide the actual expenditures by the Commission as at the end of the third quarter (2017/18) and also table the projected total budgetary requirements of the Commission till the conclusion of its assignment?” said Mr Nsamba.

Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga said accountability is a must since the money involved is for the tax payer.

“Commissions and projects need midterm accountability; postmortems will not remedy a culture of impunity,” said Mpuuga.

He added that, “How else do they explain their justification for continuing with the work, accountability is a must.”

Lands Minister Betty Amongi recently told Parliament that a budget allocation to the commission for the financial year 2017/18 was Shs15b or which Shs12.9b has so far been spent.

She said the Commission requested for another Shs7b as supplementary budget to execute its mandate.

Amongi said she had already instructed the Commission to provide a detailed accountability report to her office, a copy of which will be sent to Parliament.

The commission is expected to wind up their work on May 9 but still has backlog of about 4,500 complaints, which they are yet to address.

In January, they handed over an interim report to the President after 120 days of public hearings.

Several people, among them,  government officials, local leaders and businessman have been grilled by the commission over various cases including land grabbing, murder, forceful evictions.

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