Buganda Kingdom has given Kalungu District leaders a 30–day ultimatum to vacate its buildings over non-payment of nominal ground rent, Daily Monitor has established.
The district has reportedly defaulted on rent for four years now – something the kingdom cannot tolerate any longer.
Every month, the district is supposed to pay Shs7.6m as nominal ground rent and this means the district owes the kingdom Shs364.8m.
Kalungi District chairperson Richard Kyabaggu at the weekend confirmed the development, saying they are pushing for negotiations with Buganda Kingdom officials to extend the ultimatum.
He said they could have vacated the kingdom buildings long time ago, but their plan to erect their headquarters have stalled due to lack of funds.
Two years ago, central government promised to give Kalungu District Shs500m for construction of its headquarters after procuring land at Kaasa-Bbaale Village. However, government has not yet released the money for the project.
The decision by the kingdom to evict the district from its buildings has created panic with Mr Kyabaggu devising other means of finding money to start construction of their headquarters.
Mr Kyabaggu said the district council had resolved to lobby all district staff to commit part of their salaries towards the construction.
He added that a good number of teachers in the district have since promised to support this cause.
According to Mr Augustine Kateera, the head teacher Kapere Parents School, he cannot decide for his staff since they have different opinions on the matter.
“It is a good initiative, but not all teachers are willing to contribute money. The district leaders need to first talk to them,” he said.
Mr Denis Bagaya, the legal and public relations affairs officer, Buganda Land Board, said he could not comment on the matter, asking for more time to consult his superiors.
“Please get back to me on Monday, I need to first talk to the person who wrote the letter,” he said.
During his visit to the district a couple of years ago, Public Service minister Muruuli Mukasa advised district officials to vacate the kingdom buildings and operate in tents to avoid incurring more costs.
Kalungu was carved out of Masaka District in 2010. However, other two districts (Lwengo and Bukomansimbi), which started at the same time as Kalungu, are already erecting their headquarters.
Since its inception, Kalungu has suffered misappropriation of funds, including locally generated revenue, which has affected service delivery.
In 2015/2016 financial year, the district had budgeted for Shs679m from local revenue but by the end of September, only Shs165m had been collected, which is far below 50 per cent. This has been the trend over the years.
The 2016 Auditor General’s report also established several challenges that included shoddy work in contracts and existence of dilapidated infrastructures in many primary schools in the district.
In 2013, government and Mengo signed a MoU in which the former agreed to return kingdom property which were confiscated by the Obote I regime, but a year later when handing over some of the title deeds to Buganda Kingdom officials, President Museveni warned the kingdom against evicting tenants who have over the years occupied her land and buildings.
However, while meeting the Kabaka at his Banda palace last week, Mr Museveni said government was committed to clear all outstanding rent arrears and ordered Ministry of Lands to process all tittles and hand them over to the kingdom.
In 2014, BLB chief Executive Officer Kyewalabye Male announced that the board had assumed full powers effective August 1, 2013 to manage all properties that central government had confiscated in 1966 and districts have no mandate to sale or issues leases. But, Mr Kyewalabye advised individuals who already hold titles on such land to work with BLB officials in their localities to have their titles regularised.
BLB is the business arm of Buganda which was established in 1993 to manage part of the assets returned to the Kabaka under the Traditional Rulers Restitution of Assets & Properties Act 1993.