A 22-year-old letter has put a spanner in works for custodian board members after lawmakers investigating the mess learnt of what they have called “lies” in the management of departed Asian properties.
New evidence before Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) indicate that government fully compensated undisclosed number of claimants through the Indian government and were later allowed to repossessed the same assets through what MPs called “outright lies”, causing financial loss to government.
Sources on Cosase taskforce investigating the mess told this newspaper that MPs have obtained a confidential letter from Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, who in his official capacity as the then Attorney General and Minister for Justice, wrote to his colleague, the late Basoga Nsadhu on June 23, 1997, giving details on the people who were compensated for the departed Asian properties.
The taskforce boss, Mr Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East), has since promised to leave no stone unturned as investigations continue.
“As a result of political interference, properties were wrongfully allocated, repossessed and sold; purchase prices were reduced below the reserve prices without proper justification,” Mr Kasozi said.
Mr Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala, Ind) and other MPs on the committee investigating the mess in the departed Asian assets have also confirmed double allocation of some properties, especially in Jinja and Kampala, missing documents and negligence.
They have also established that only Indian citizens were fully compensated through their government and not others.
Mr Jim Mugunga, the Ministry of Finance spokesperson, told the MPs that Mr Kasaija as the chairperson of the Custodian Board has attended the committee and explained what happened. Mr Kasaija has since promised to investigate the issues and take action.
Without disclosing how much Uganda paid to the Indian government and the fate of other claimants, Katureebe wrote: “The legal position is that the government of Uganda discharged its obligations under international law when it paid the money to the Indian government.”
“The Indian government had a duty to pass the compensation to its nationals since it not only negotiated on their behalf but received on their behalf. Therefore, all those Indian citizens for whom compensation was passed to the Indian government have no further claims in Uganda where they have been given certificates of repossession should be cancelled as they should be getting a double benefit.”
However, details from Bank of Uganda had indicated that 341 people were compensated through the United Nations Human Rights Council and 116 compensated through the British High Commission. This is in addition to more than 8,000 properties that were expropriated.
“The Indians who claim that they didn’t get paid by their government when in fact they were listed for payment should be advised to contact their government. Those who are found to have fraudulently re-claimed properties for which they had already been compensated should be prosecuted subjected to direction of DPP on the matter.”
AG TO EXPLAIN
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe is not expected to be summoned in the committee. The committee has, however, summoned the Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, to explain what happened.