Sunday February 23 2014

Ministers named in Kololo school land giveaway


KAMPALA-State Minister for Sports Charles Bakabulindi is allegedly in the middle of a storm after he wrote a letter authorising the giveaway of prime land of a government school in Kampala to a private businessman.

The land, more than three acres, opposite Kampala Parents School on Lugogo Bypass in Kampala, belongs to Kololo Secondary School. On the reported strength of a letter from Mr Bakabulindi to Uganda Land Commission, the land has been gifted to a renowned local investor.
According to public standing orders, the custodians of public property are the government bureaucrats not politicians. Therefore, if he wrote a letter giving Uganda Land Commission a no-objection to transfer ownership of the land to Kampala Parents School, Mr Bakabulindi could have offended the law.

An investigation by the Sunday Monitor reveals that Kololo SS had earlier lost much of its land to other private developers. The school previously owned plots 41-59 and plots 60-68 on Lugogo Bypass but the plots have since changed ownership.

The latest round of Kololo SS land giveaway started last year when the private developer wrote to the Minister for Kampala, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, informing him that they wanted to develop the land “since it did not have an owner”. They pledged to let other schools continue to use it as a sports ground.

On August 20, 2013, Mr Tumwebaze wrote back to the developer informing him: “I am not opposed, as a minister for Kampala, to the development of the facility as long as it remains accessible to all other schools.”

Kampala Parents School and other neighbouring schools, including the owner of the land, Kololo SS, use the field for sports activities.

Mr Tumwebaze advised the developer that before taking over the land, they should seek guidance from other stakeholders like the Ministry of Education and Sports, Uganda Land Commission and the schools nearby.

He argued in his letter that it would be inappropriate if the same piece of land was leased to any developer for any use other than sports.
“At least I remember my letter and it was very clear. They shouldn’t construe my letter to be the authority,” Mr Tumwebaze told the Sunday Monitor.

Apparently, the developer submitted Mr Tumwebaze’s letter to Uganda Land Commission (ULC), seeking a lease for the land. The ULC advised the developer to seek an express letter of no-objection from the Education ministry before a lease could be given.

The developer approached the ministry bureaucrats with a proposal to build a modern sports facility, which was welcomed on condition that it’s a partnership between Kololo SS and the developer, with the school offering the said land as its equity.

Our investigation established that the other conditions included ownership of the land to remain with the government and that after building the sports facility, Kololo SS and other neighbouring schools would be allowed to use it. The third condition was that the land be strictly used for sports.

However, at the time these negotiations took place, Kololo SS was already in discussions with another investor, Dmark Company Ltd, who wanted to enter a partnership with the school to develop a sports facility. Documents seen by the Sunday Monitor indicate that one Robert Semakula is the managing director of Dmark Company.

In a meeting with Education ministry officials, the new developer, who reportedly appeared to agree to the conditions, was referred to the school’s board of governors to conclude the modalities of the partnership. But the developer reportedly did not consult the school board, according to our sources.

Instead, the developer and his agents approached minister Bakabulindi who wrote a letter of no-objection to the ULC to lease out the land to the developer. While the ministry bureaucrats had settled for a partnership, Mr Bakabulindi allegedly sanctioned a giveaway. At this point, the ministry bureaucrats were left out of the picture.

Later, they were shocked to see a letter from the Solicitor General authorising the ULC to change ownership of the land. Upon inquiry, it was found that the land had changed ownership after Mr Bakabulindi allegedly wrote the letter. Sources say instead of a lease, the developer has obtained a freehold land tenure, suggesting Kololo SS has lost ownership completely. This matter has also sparked disagreement between bureaucrats and politicians in the Education ministry over each other’s mandate.

Efforts to get a comment from Mr Bakabulindi were futile as the minister did not pick our calls to his four known cellular phones.

The matter has become so contentious that several officials approached feared to comment. Kololo SS headmistress Enid Watuwa sounded scared when the Sunday Monitor called her.
“I don’t know what you are saying, the land is still ours and nobody wants it. We are using it,” she said even when the Sunday Monitor had received reports that on Friday, the developer had attempted to evict the school guards from the land.

Mr Christopher Gashabarike, the director of civil litigation in the Office of Solicitor General, confirmed the matter had reached his office but declined to discuss it. “Let the ministry resolve that; that is an administrative matter. We (Solicitor General) don’t issue land titles,” he said.

Our sources said the Education ministry had written to Mr Gashabarike asking him to cancel the land lease but he became agitated when the Sunday Monitor asked him about it.
The giveaway means that Kololo SS will possibly lose the land and also the opportunity to co-own any development done thereon.