Officials admit illegalities in public land giveaways

Thursday April 16 2015

Uganda Land Commission chairman Baguma Isoke

Uganda Land Commission chairman Baguma Isoke (L) before a Parliament select committee yesterday. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Parliament. Uganda Land Commission (ULC) officials yesterday admitted illegalities in city land deals.
The officials also volunteered information to the ongoing House inquiry into the giving-away of real estate belonging to public education institutions, detailing how they helped an investor to mortgage a piece of land belonging to a city school.
Documents presented by ULC chairman Baguma Isoke to the House committee carrying out the investigation, contain evidence of the transactions.

The illegal deals
The committee heard that ULC illegally allocated Plot 27 on Bombo Road, belonging to Buganda Road Primary School, to Jima Properties Ltd in January 2011. The investor was granted a five-year lease and when the lease expired, ULC officials extended the disputed lease for 49 years.
“Uganda Land Commission is party to shoddy land deals in the city,” said Mr Wilfred Niwagaba, the committee lead counsel.
“They grabbed the school land and gave it to an investor. They extended the lease for 49 years to help the investor mortgage the school land title to a bank,” added Mr Niwagaba.
The documents showed how Mr Baker Mugaino, a land officer on September 8, 2014, wrote to the Commissioner Land Registration, confirming the extension of the lease to Jima Properties Ltd. The committee is investigating the people behind this company after ULC failed to disclose the names of its directors.
However, in a May 5, 2014 letter, Mr Bulaimu Muwonge Kibirige, who signed as the managing director of Jima Properties Ltd, requested ULC’s consent to mortgage the land to his bankers for development financing as the only way to finish the project.
The committee heard that in the lease offer, the investor was asked to improve the school football pitch with simple materials, yet the school management wanted security of the pupils while at school. Later, the investor allegedly agreed with the school to build a perimeter wall around the school.
“Following our application for financing, the bank may request for a full lease so as to secure its money,” Mr Kibirige wrote.
Mr Baguma and his team kept blaming the irregularities in various land deals on the current staff gaps at ULC. Mr Paul Idudi, a ULC official, said there is a committee within ULC which advises the commission’s board on various transactions. They requested for more time to study the advice the committee gave on the disputed land deals.
Mr Theodore Ssekikubo, the MP who petitioned the House to form a select committee on the takeover of land belonging to public schools, accused commission officials of colluding with investors to fraudulently extend leases and later claim that they hold the land in trust for Ugandans.
However, Mr Mugaino said: “It’s not true that we connive with investors. We are staff of the commission headed by a secretary who reports to the board. Where extension is done without developments, it’s an illegality and there is no need for debate over that matter.”

Kololo SS land giveaway
The committee also heard that former Mwenge MP Tom Butime was also given a piece of land belonging to Kololo SS to construct residential houses. The former MP later sold the land in question on which a mosque was later constructed. By press time, Mr Butime was not available for comment.
Yesterday, ULC officials requested for a closed session with the committee to discuss the demolition of Nabagereka Primary School.
Members who attended the closed-door meeting later told Daily Monitor that they were informed that the school land was sold by Buganda Land Board and that the government did not have any hand in the demolition.
Ministry of Education officials are expected to appear before the committee today.