Lands Minister Betty Amongi on Tuesday afternoon laboured to defend herself against accusations of conflict of interest and influence peddling put to her by the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led Land Probe Commission.
Time saw Ms Amongi’s aura of confidence dwindle as the minister, who earlier in the day showed up at the commission headquarters in Nakasero with the demeanor of one with nothing to fear, by afternoon was struggling to be audible as she answered questions.
The commission’s lead counsel Ebert Byenkya bombarded Ms Amongi with evidence connecting her to operations of AMOBET investments Ltd, a company the minister co-owns with her sister.
Ms Amongi’s hardest task was convincing the commission that as a majority share holder in the company, she was detached from the running of the company.
In her sworn testimony, Ms Amongi acknowledged ownership of AMOBET together with her sister Katty Adong.
She however maintained that as directors they surrendered full trust of the operations to fellow director Henry Mubiru, who made all the decisions.
However, Mr Byenkya asked Ms Amongi to stop referring to Mubiru as the managing director, he presented her with a document which the minister herself signed as the managing director of the company.
A lot of the commission’s questioning of the Lands Minister pertained to whether she used her position to influence the secretariat of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board to allocate land to AMOBET Investments Ltd.
Amongi, who sits as a member on the board by the virtue of her office as the Lands minister, told the commission that she had never even set foot on any of the properties worth billions of shillings, despite her company owning them.
According to evidence before the Commission, minister Amongi on February 15, 2018 using the Ministry’s letter head, wrote to the owner of a disputed property on Plot 29 Acacia avenue-Kololo, Tashak Partel, summoning him to appear at the Ministry of Lands Headquarters, for questioning in relation to forged documents, including a land title and a certificate of re-possession regarding the property.
Its against this background that the commission wondered whether she didn’t know that she had personal interest in a matter she was investigating or that the property her company had applied for was among the properties entrusted to her as a minister of Lands and a Member of the Custodian Board.
The Minister in her response indicated that her Company applied for the said property in 2010 before she became minister in 2016.
The evidence before the Commission also shows that the minister, through AMOBET Investments Ltd, applied for several other government properties including Plot 12 at Prince Charles Drive, Plot 15 industrial area and Plot 16 Kyaggwe Kibuga Mengo.
Asked to resign
After more than eight hours of questioning, Ms Amongi had a session to interact with the seven commissioners who advised that the minister resigns her position.
Amongi appeared before the commission after a series of criminal summons issued against her.
The commission chairperson Justice Bamugemereire threatened to order the Inspector General of Government to investigate Ms Amongi.
The minister was also accused of turning herself into a land agent by acquiring government properties through her company, manages them and in turn pays some little money to government as rent. It was noted that AMOBET acquired a property for which it pays rent of Shs500,000 and rented the same property off to Miscommunication Telecom at $9,000 (approximately Shs32 million.)
She is further accused of failing to file returns for her company since its incorporation in 2008 which shows non compliance in terms of tax -payment.
Hearing was adjourned to tomorrow, Wednesday May 9 and the minister was ordered to return to the commission to answer questions in relation to the Land Fund.