Friday May 18 2018

Minister Kasaija quizzed over Asians’ property

Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija

Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija. FILE PHOTO 

By EPHRAIM KASOZI & JALIRA NAMYALO

KAMPALA.

Finance minister Matia Kasaija was yesterday quizzed before the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters in connection with the allocation of properties belonging to departed Asians and management of the Uganda Land Fund.
Mr Kasaija (Buyanja County MP) was tasked to explain the circumstances under which various prime properties under the Departed Asians Custodian Board were allocated to individuals and companies including Amobet Investments Limited owned by Lands minister Betty Amongi.
Ms Amongi is a member of the custodian board committee chaired by Mr Kasaija
It is alleged that on December 14, 2017, the executive secretary of the custodian board, Mr George William Bizibu, allocated three prime properties, including Plot 29 on Acacia Avenue, Plot 15/17 in Industrial Area and Plot 12A along Prince Charles Drive in Kololo to Amobet Investments Limited and fraudulently sold Plot 18 Periman Gardens in Kampala.
Evidence presented before the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led commission indicates that the temporary allocation of the property was granted just two days after the application by Amobet.
Appearing before the land probe, Mr Kasaija was tasked to explain where Bizibu derived the mandate to allocate the properties which had already been repossessed and denied Ugandan citizens the right to participate in the acquisition when he dispose of unclaimed property by private treaty.
Mr Kasaija said he did not remember chairing a custodian board meeting which decided the allocation of property to Amobet. He testified that the decision by Mr Bizibu was done solely in his capacity as the chief executive.
“The issue of allocating property, collecting rent, cancelling tenancy was left to the executive secretary,” said Mr Kasaija whose argument was dismissed by commission’s deputy lead counsel, Mr John Bosco Suuza.
Mr Suuza questioned Mr Bizibu’s decision to allocate the property without approval of the board. He said the dubious allocation triggered the sale of the said property.
About the recruitment of Mr Bizibu, Mr Kasaija admitted he spearheaded the head-hunting of the officer contrary to the law.
However, he defended his action saying Bizibu’s recruitment was to expedite the winding off of the board. Kasaija apologised.
“If I flouted the law, I take responsibility. I know Bizibu very well and I have no doubt about his capacity to handle the work in a speedy manner and I invited and presented him to the top management. He was interviewed and satisfied the board,” said Mr Kasaija.

Key issues

On process of giving property to Amobet: “There is a game I cannot explain myself. It involves my executive secretary and my honourable colleague, Amongi but I need to look at the minutes because I don’t remember chairing a meeting that approved the allocation (of property).”
On the Land Fund: Mr Kasaija said he learnt about its existence because he comes from Kibaale, one of the areas the Fund is intended to benefit.
“As a minister, I have been sending money to Uganda Land Commission for the Land Fund,” he said.

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