The executive director of Uganda Free Zone Authority (UFZA) has failed to explain to the commission investigating land matters why he ignored the advice of the State Minister of Privatisation and Investment and the UFZA Board and paid Shs7.5b without carrying out due diligence on a 103-acre piece of land.
“There was no ill intention, those oversights occur,” Mr Richard Jabo yesterday said, when tasked to explain the financial loss.
Mr Jabo asked the commission to be allowed to speak to the team in camera.
Three weeks ago, the State Minister for Privatisation and Investment, Ms Evelyn Anite, petitioned the land probe team to investigate circumstances under which government paid Shs7.5b but got no land in return.
While appearing before Justice Bamugemereire’s commission, Ms Anite accused officials in the ministries of Finance, Lands and UFZA of conniving to defraud government.
The money was for the purchase of land in Buwaya in Busiro County to set up a free zone where goods could be manufactured for export. A free zone is an industrial area where goods are regarded as being outside the customs territory and importation of raw materials is tax exempt.
‘Ghost’ land sale
After receiving clearance from Mr Jabo, the Ministry of Finance paid Mr Paul Bukenya and Mr Dick Lutaaya through Katende, Ssempebwa and Company Advocates.
Last week, Mr Augustine Bukenya Muwulizi, an administrator in the estate of Samwiri Kironde (owner of the land), told the land probe team that Mr Bukenya and Mr Lutaaya did not own the land they sold to government. Mr Muwulizi said if government needed the land, they had to pay for it.
Mr Jabo was also faulted for ignoring his director legal’s advise.
“The director legal had a dissenting opinion. We were together but we had different opinions,” Mr Jabo said.
Before buying the ghost land, UFZA had no surveyor to advise them on the purchase and according to Mr Jabo, he thought the ministry of Lands would take care of surveys.
Mr Jabo also failed to explain why he left government to pay withholding tax and stamp duty instead of Katende, Ssempebwa and Company Advocates.
When asked why he added an extra seven acres, Mr Jabo said he had done it to justify the exorbitant sum paid for the ‘ghost’ land.