Speaker Rebecca Kadaga yesterday stopped a move by the chairperson of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), Mr Mubarak Munyagwa, to wind up work of a taskforce he had formed to investigate dubious acquisition and repossession of departed Asians properties.
Ms Kadaga, while giving her opening remarks in yesterday’s plenary sitting, said she has been informed that the probe by the select taskforce headed by Mr Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East, FDC) is being wound up without any report being presented in the House.
“You will appreciate that the issues of the [Departed Asians Properties] Custodian Board have never been handled by this House before. A sub-committee was formed in July to specifically handle this matter. Therefore, the powers of the House cannot be usurped by a particular member,” the Speaker said.
She said because the taskforce had been handling the different complaints and petitions about private individuals who allegedly repossessed or acquired expropriated properties, the taskforce has been given 45 more sittings to conclude the probe.
“The sub-committee should use the next 45 sitting days to complete the work on the Custodian Board and report to this House,” Ms Kadaga said.
Overwhelmed by work, Cosase under Mr Munyagwa on July 19 decided to form a select taskforce headed by Mr Kasozi, the vice chairperson, to probe into the alleged dubious acquisition and repossession of properties that were either compensated for by the government or the owners never returned after they were expelled in 1972 by then president, Idi Amin.
The probe, which has seen names of key government officials and ministers named in the saga surrounding the mismanagement of the expropriated properties, was initially supposed to take only two months but by September 19, more petitions continued to arrive.
Mr Kasozi yesterday said the taskforce had not yet handled a “quarter of the complaints” before the two months elapsed and he had to write to the Cosase chairman to advise on the next cause of action.
“When the two months given to us ended, I wrote to my chairman asking for advice on whether we should make a report on work so far done or we get an extension but he responded in another letter that the full Committee would take over the investigations,” Mr Kasozi said.
He added: “We immediately stopped work waiting for the whole Committee to be invited to proceed with the investigations. That is why we have not sat since we came back from recess. And how the matter reached the Speaker, I can’t tell because to us it was normal to return to the main Committee.”
Key among the issues that had come up before the taskforce so far include the listing of government ministers and officials who allegedly acquired some properties mostly houses or helped others to get them, the controversy over the office of the Executive Secretary for Custodian Board, the re-opening of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) purchase of land at Temangalo, and probing prominent Uganda-Asians for alleged forging of powers of attorney to take control of some properties whose owners never returned.
Mr Kasozi said he was going to direct the clerk to the committee to arrange for meetings of the taskforce to resume next week in fulfilment of the Speaker’s directive.
He said the resumption of investigations would begin with quizzing the teams from the land boards of Kampala, Jinja and Mbale districts which have been mentioned by witnesses as playing part in processing of illegal land titles on expropriated properties.
He said further probe into individuals alleged to have dubiously acquired properties will be done after hearing from the land boards.
In September, the Ugandan-Asians under the Association of Expropriated Properties’ Owners Limited expressed fears that some of their leaders being probed by the taskforce may be the beginning of a “second expulsion” of Asians.