KAMPALA – An investigation has started to look into circumstances under which the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board and it’s Executive Secretary George William Bizibu took UGX. 1.6 billion shillings from a city investor and failed to deliver a property promised.
The investor, Margaret Ssekidde of Seroma Ltd later reported the matter to the President who in turn asked for an investigation into the affairs of the DAPCB.
“The accounts of the Departed Asian Properties Custodian Board, have been frozen and top officials are under probe,” a source close to the investigation told this website.
Details of the full investigation are still scanty but the DAPCB has in the last few years been a subject of controversy.
A select task force of the parliamentary Committee on Commission, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) investigating the body found that many properties had been disposed of without following due process and MPs put Finance Minister Mr Matia Kasajia to task to explain why Chief Executive Mr. Bizibu, who also had a torrid time explaining audit queries that have marred operations of the government agency is working without a formal appointment as Executive Secretary.
The MPs concluded that Mr Bizibu was in office illegally.
The Parliamentary inquiry started after the Board chaired by Mr Kasaija claimed unspecified amount of money was paid to undisclosed claimants for properties which were sold by the Custodian Board prior to receiving repossession claims by original owners.
The MPs then challenged the Custodian Board to publish a list of the beneficiaries to confirm whether they did not pay ghost claimants.
While appearing before COSASE at the time, Mr Bizibu, admitted the accountability queries when questioned by MPs.
During the interface with the MPs, Mr Bizibu who has been at the helm of the DAPCB for about three years, said the board does not have information on the current ownership of several plots despite the records indicating that they were compensated by the government.
An Auditor General’s report then raised accountability queries at the Custodian Board such as theft of public funds through fictitious compensations of up to Shs1.7b, double allocation of properties, forged land titles, sale of assets without proper valuation, missing documents among other illegalities.
The February 2011-March 2016 report of the Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, revealed that the Board chaired by the Finance Minister failed to maintain proper books of account and annual financial statements were not prepared.
As a result, it took Auditor General 15 years to audit the Custodian Board activities.
In the process, billions of shillings in tax payers’ money was misappropriated. The Auditor General’s report for instance, shows that Shs50.2m cash was not banked and lacked accountability documents at the time of audit. Another Shs15.2m was receipted as cash received but could not be traced in the bank statement. Also about Shs500m was spent directly from the collection account without authority of the Board.
“It was also noted that Shs292.3m was withdrawn from the bank without explanation as to the nature and purpose of the payments… these actions are not in accordance with best practices in financial management… [inquiry into the use of these funds should be instituted],” the AG report reads in part.
At the same several properties in prime areas of Kampala that are in the records of DAPCB were dubiously acquired or registered in the names of other people. The Auditor General inspected 139 properties in Jinja Municipal Council and found that the Board did appoint qualified professionals to value the properties.
There was also no complete list of tenants and properties. The AG also discovered cases of duplicated allocation of properties, abandoned properties, irregular disposal of properties, arrears of ground rent and unscrupulous property managers. He says these irregularities have resulted into the loss of government properties.
Other properties in prime areas of Kampala that are in the records of DAPCB but dubiously acquired or registered in the names of other people include; Plot 20 Parliament Avenue; Plot 3 Market Street; Plots 6, 8, 10 and 12 Namirembe Road; Plot 14 A George Street; and Plot 7 Bombo road.
The Parliamentary Inquiry is still on going.