The Commission of Inquiry into land matters has issued fresh criminal summons against Lands minister, Betty Amongi, to appear and testify before the Commission today without fail.
The summonses are in regards to accusations levelled against the minister over alleged fraudulent acquisition of land from an Asian family and the mismanagement of the Land Fund.
This will be the third and final summon the Commission is issuing to the minister. Failure to appear as stated will mean that the Commission will have no option but to arrest Amongi from wherever she will be found and brought to the Commission.
“At the beginning of today’s hearing, the Commission issued a final criminal summons upon the person of Hon Betty Amongi. The Commission ordered that she must appear before it by 9am on 08/05/2018. Hon Amongi has not honoured summons issued to her since 03/04/2018” a statement from the Commission citing the criminal summons said.
Asked what would happen if the minister fails to appear, the Commission’s lead counsel, Ebert Byenkya, said: “ I hope the minister shows up, because it will be very unfortunate for the government minister to be arrested to appear” Byenkya said.
On May 4, Douglas Singiza, the Commission’s acting secretary issued the second summon against Amongi requiring her to record a statement and thereafter give her testimony on May 7 (yesterday). However, she did not show up. The assistant lead counsel, JB Suuza said Amongi instead wrote a letter.
In her letter to the Commission, Amongi indicated that the prime minister had advised her not to avail to the Commission the Land Fund documents before cabinet approves them. The minister asked for more time to first consult cabinet.
Following her failure to appear, Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, who chairs the Commission, issued the fresh and final criminal summon against the minister requiring her to appear today (Tuesday) at 9am without fail.
Bamugemeire said if the minister fails to honour the third summon, the Commission will have no option but to issue a warrant of arrest. Bamugemereire also stated that a warrant of arrest will be served to the prime minister, speaker of parliament, inspector general of police and all the border authorities to secure her attendance.
Amongi is required by the Commission to answer questions related to her role in handling of the land fund, issues related to her company, Amobet Investments limited and handling of dispute related to property on Plot 29 Acacia Avenue Kololo, Kampala.
Amongi was on May 4, accused before the Commission for allegedly attempting to fraudulently acquire property on Plot 29 Acacia Avenue in Kololo, Kampala. The property in dispute is under leasehold number 235 and registered in the names of Toshak Patel, an architect.
It is alleged that in December 2017, Amongi through her company, Amobet Investments Limited acquired temporary possession of the property after it was repossessed by the Asian family in 1992.
Documents indicate that the allocation by Amobet Investments Limited was signed by the executive secretary of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board.(DAPCB), George William Bizibu. Bizibu who appeared before the Commission yesterday, May 7, made controversial statements and was subsequently detained for further questioning.
He was also instructed to present to the Commission, urgent documents on the alleged board meetings he claimed to have held with the board, yet not without fail.
During cross examination, the seven commissioners found out that Bizibu, without the consent of the full DAPCB board, underestimated properties owned by government of Uganda as peanuts and gave them out at give away prices.
A case in point is the above-mentioned property on Plot 29 Acacia Avenue in Kololo, Kampala, which commands rent of $9,000 per month, but was fraudulently allocated to somebody else at a paltry $150 per month.
While there are no exact figures, reports indicate that government has lost billions of shilling through this shoddy deal. Last week, the land probe questioned the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) Undersecretary, Albert Jethro Mugumya, in regard to the minister’s responsibility in the management of the land fund.
It is alleged that in 2016, Amongi directed Mugumya to effect payment of millions of shillings under the land fund contrary to her mandate. Mugumya admitted to the Commission during cross examination that Amongi directed him to make the payments to various people citing special requests.
Mugumya who declined to divulge details of the people in question, told the Commission that Amongi’s involvement amounted to micro management of the Land Fund contrary to her role of providing policy guidelines. Documents presented before the probe confirm that on November 23, 2016, the minister directed Mugumya to make urgent payment of land compensation of more than Shs 620 million to nine people.
In another letter dated October 31, 2016, Amongi directed Mugumya to effect payments for special consideration to two sick persons. According to the letter, the minister directed Mugumya to advance Shs 100 million out of Shs 776,780,000 as payment claim for Ms Victoria Kakoko-Sebagereka who was very sick and due for treatment abroad, and Shs 50million of Shs 210 million to a one Mzee Kuriash Barinda of Isingiro.
“I have received many urgent pleas for consideration for payment from Uganda land fund which cannot all be accommodated this quarter due to limited funds. However, exceptional two cases that require our humanitarian considerations,” reads the minister’s letter.
In another letter dated November 29, 2017, Amongi directed for payment of Shs 675.8 million to Yisaka Lwakana for land at Kooki, Katete.
“The payments were effected basing on special requests as indicated in the minister’s letters and the land is known to ULC as per the records,” said Mugumya adding that he complied with the minister’s directive upon making consultations with the chairman.
Evidence presented before the land probe indicates that Amongi contravened the Public Service Standing Orders when she directed the accounting officer instead of the ULC chairman to effect the payments.
The Land Fund was established under Section 41 of the Land Act to bring to an end the long standing conflict in regard to multiple interests on land in the counties of Bugangayizi and Buyaga, Bunyoro Sub region.
However, evidence presented before the Commission demonstrates how officials at the Uganda Land Commission connived with businessmen, pastors and influential people in government to fraudulently acquired billions of shillings from the Land Fund.