Govt fails to produce URC land documents

The State Minister for Privatisation and Investment, Ms Evelyn Anite, appears before Cosase  at Parliament February 10, 2022. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA . 

What you need to know:

  • Finance ministry officials say they have never seen the letter okaying the transfer.

Ministry of Finance has for the second time failed to furnish Parliament with requisite documents detailing the authorisation and process followed to award Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) land to  private investors.
The ministry officials led by the State Minister for Privatisation and Investment, Ms Evelyn Anite, and the executive director of the Privatisation Unit, Mr Moses Mwaswe, said they have never seen the documents okaying the transfer of URC land.

The team was yesterday appearing before Parliament’s Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase). The first time the ministry officials appeared before Cosase was in November last year. 
Ms Anite, who represented on Minister for Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija, told lawmakers that she had never seen the letter okaying the transfer.

After the government resolved to sell off the URC land, the then Minister for Works and Transport, Mr John Nasasira, wrote to then Minister for Finance Ms Syda Bumba, seeking approval which she okayed. 
It is, however, not clear if the letter was ever authored as the Ministry of Finance officials denied having knowledge of it.
To this end, Ms Anite referred the committee to former Minister Bumba, reasoning that she never received the document in the handover report when she assumed office.
“My [handover] report and that of Mr Kasaija do not have the letter of approval. What I have on record is the letter from Mr Nasasira,” Ms Anite said.
She added: “So that is why I requested the committee to invite them. These are living, they should come and account for their actions.”
The revelation came to light after the Kashari South MP, Mr Nathan Itungo, demanded for the letter.
“This whole exercise was supposed to be approved by the minister. Now the fact that there is no letter especially after receiving the letter from the Ministry of Works to Finance to approve the process. We shall assume that this exercise was not approved and it was an illegal exercise,” Mr Itungo said.

The committee is currently inquiring into the process and decisions that informed the transfer of the URC land including the 57 acres at the Nsambya that are now privately owned.
Investigations into the matter commenced late last year after URC officials revealed that none of the proceeds from the URC land had been remitted to their accounts.
The Committee then summoned Ministry of Finance officials including the head of the Privatisation.

However, after they were tasked to account for Shs69.5b gained from the transfer of the URC land,  ministry of Finance referred Parliament to the Uganda Land Commission.
To the dismay of the same committee, no defined response was availed. 
After the government displaced owners of the Naguru-Nakawa land for development, it resolved to compensate 10 investors with 57.93 acres at Nsambya. The proceeds were meant to enable the URC cushion itself from the financial constraints and administrative costs it had been facing.
However, the lawmakers have asking the Ministry of Finance to trace the money in order for the URC to ably finance its activities.