The implementation of infrastructure projects often involves compulsory acquisition of privately-owned land after a suitable site has been identified. The attachment people have to land in form of neighbourhood relations, livelihoods and heritage often creates the unwillingness to support the land acquisition process.
To convince people to support the projects, interactions between the affected persons, local leaders and a team of sociologists usually take place before land surveyors demarcate the extents of the project area. Valuation surveyors then assess the values of the affected land, developments, and crops.
These processes take time because the right parcel of land and the right land and property owners to be compensated have to be identified. All stakeholders should be involved. The affected parties have to be given an assurance that they will be compensated in equal measure of what they have lost. The principle guiding compensation assessments is that of equivalence. A person should not be better off or worse off than they were before the compensation. In other words, they should be restored to the same financial position they were in before compensation.
How do you arrive at this? Valuers measure the dimensions of the affected properties; note the construction details and accommodation of the buildings, the number, type and size of the crops, and the nature of the developments on a given land. They attach value to the land relying on the sizes provided by the land surveyors and using comparable sales evidence.
The values of permanent buildings are determined using replacement cost while that of crops is determined using current district compensation rates for the crops. In other words, they reflect current values. The expectation of the project-affected persons is that compensation will be effected immediately.
However, sometimes it takes up to five years before compensation is made. Most times, old values no longer apply. Property values may have gone up which sometimes leads to the affected persons rejecting the amount money for compensation.
Often, the blame is put on the valuation surveyor for assessing a low value for compensation without considering the date when the valuation was made, which is very important. It is wrong to put the blame on valuation surveyors without considering the delays in funding, lack of funds to carry out the projects, inflation and many other events that take place between the date of submission of the valuation report and the date of awarding compensation to the project affected persons.
Some have gone ahead to stop contracting private valuation firms to do valuations for compensation. Unknown to them is that whether a valuer is employed by the government or by a private firm, they follow the same principles of valuation.
There are standards that govern the profession. Alarms are sometimes made after compensation awards in billions of shillings are made for land yet comparable sales evidence in the neighbourhood of that particular piece of land shows much lower figures for land values per acre. Before we crucify valuation surveyors, we should ask ourselves: Was the land for which an award of compensation was made developed? Does the figure that was reported include the values of the land and developments there on? It is necessary to make comparisons only of similar facts.
We should also look at some factors that delay project execution like people constructing houses and other permanent structures in the project-affected area after the valuation exercise of affected properties has been concluded.
Valuers are not to blame for this. Sometimes unscrupulous people sell the land for which compensation has been made to other people who go on to develop the land. The new owners oppose any efforts to get them off the land without being compensated.
Before we blame one another for the delay of projects that follow land acquisitions, we should ask ourselves: How many years have passed since the valuation surveyor submitted a valuation report for the compensation awards?
Did the funding for the project come on time? Do the names of the people that are demanding compensation tally with those in the valuation report? Were the right steps of data collection followed? Were the right people paid? Were all stake holders involved?
Mr Mulumba is the chief valuer, Buganda Land Board.