Report faults KCCA on ‘irregular’ purchase of Usafi Market land

What you need to know:

  • Controversy. Since its purchase in 2015, Usafi market has been synonymous with controversies, which city leaders say have stagnated its development.

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) did not do due diligence during the purchase of Usafi Market, a report by the Authority’s select committee reveals.
The 12-page report dated February 7, a copy of which Daily Monitor has seen, was compiled between May 2018 and February 2019.
It states that while KCCA had all the resources at their disposal to carry out a thorough survey of the land on which the market currently sits, they did procurement in ‘haste’ yet the land was ‘encumbered’.
“…it is the opinion of the select committee that KCCA did not do due diligence during the procurement of the said Usafi market land, but rather KCCA acted in haste, without caution and insulation from wrongdoing,” the report reads in part.
The findings of the report now give credence to claims that the entire process that led to the purchase of the now contentious land was marked by irregularities, leaving KCCA’s ownership of the same land in the balance.
KCCA bought Usafi market on March 10, 2015, at Shs39.4 billion from Umar Ssekamate Nasoro, the proprietor of Safinet (U) Ltd, following Cabinet approval on July 8, 2014.
However, the seller later sued KCCA, demanding an extra Shs1 billion after accusing the Authority of breaching the sale agreement by failing to pay on time.
The land, located at Kalintunsi in Kisenyi-Mengo, Kampala Central Division, was bought to accommodate street vendors.
But shortly after the controversial purchase, city leaders, especially politicians, said the transaction was inflated, a claim KCCA dismissed as ‘baseless’.
Although the transaction was later cleared by Parliament, ownership wrangles have kept cropping up hence keeping vendors, who are currently operating on markets erected on the land, on tenterhooks, fearing that they could lose their tenancy.
One such ownership claim is by Ms Faridah Nantale and Mr Ahamada Sserwadda, both residents of Mengo-Kisenyi.
The duo claims that they were the administrators of part of the contentious land, which they say belonged to the late Muhammad Mukoloboza. They claim that they warned KCCA before purchase of the land but the latter turned a deaf ear.
They have since petitioned the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire land probe.
The latest ownership claim was filed in April last year by businessman John Bosco Muwonge, who said KCCA encroached on 18 decimals of his land, which is adjacent to Usafi market, and erected a makeshift shelter to accommodate the vendors.
Mr Muwonge’s claim triggered uproar from vendors who petitioned Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago on April 19 last year, accusing the businessman of ‘grabbing’ the market land, and ‘forcibly’ evicting them without any notice.
To ascertain the veracity of the vendors’ claims, Mr Lukwago instituted a six-member committee headed by Deputy Lord Mayor Sarah Kanyike to probe the alleged land grabbing, and ascertain the total acreage of the land.
The committee was also supposed to investigate Mr Muwonge’s interest in Usafi market land, and establish vendors’ grievances, and establish whether KCCA did due diligence before purchasing the said Usafi market land.
The findings
The report states that while KCCA claims to have bought 6.18 acres of land on which Usafi market sits, there is conflicting information on the land size, something the report said, puts KCCA on spot.
For instance, the report states that whereas an earlier report by Survey Consult (land surveyor) to the chief government valuer shows only six acres, former KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi wrote to Mr Lukwago last year, saying the land had 6.18 acres.
In her letter, Ms Musisi told Mr Lukwago that a survey, which had been conducted on the market by KCCA technical officials, had indicated that Mr Muwonge’s land had been encroached on by 18 decimals when they were erecting the makeshift market structure.
“…the allegations that John Bosco Muwonge grabbed KCCA land at Usafi market have no merit or legal basis,” she wrote.
However, the select committee’s report states that the sale and purchase agreement of March 10, 2015, as submitted by the acting director of legal affairs, Mr Charles Ouma, under which KCCA procured the contentious land, does not show the size of the entire land.
“…according to officials from the Procurement and Disposal Unit, the size of the land was only indicated in the contracts minutes, which left a grey area for the committee to conclusively deal with this particular problem of the land size,” reads in part the report.
The report further queries why a major subject of the agreement such as the size of the land under consideration could not be included in the sale agreement.
“…in view of the above contradictions on the size of the land, therefore, the committee recommends an independent and transparent survey that will clear this ambiguity on the true size of the land occupied by Usafi market,” it says.
The report also faults KCCA for failure to have clear reports about the acreage of the land yet they have a fully-fledged directorate of physical planning with qualified surveyors who would have rendered the necessary advice on matters of interpretation of survey reports.
The report recommends that an independent forensic audit of all documents concerning Usafi market land transaction be undertaken in an open and transparent process to ascertain its ownership.
It also recommends that the Directorate of Physical Planning explains in writing why the structural plans of the current market were approved without ascertaining the ownership of the land in question.
During council meeting last week, KCCA’s technical team headed by the acting deputy executive director, Mr Samuel Serunkuuma, was tasked to explain the acreage of Usafi market land.
However, Mr Serunkuuma insisted that the land in question measures 6.18 acres. He assured council that the land titles of the said land, which are currently being kept by KCCA, read 6.18 acres.
He said the select committee’s report was biased and characterised by political undertones, which aim at tarnishing the name of the institution.
“The committee members rushed to make a report without engaging us the technocrats so that we could give them accurate information about this land. What they did was to just write the report to excite the public. This is very unfair,” Mr Serunkuuma said.
But Ms Kanyike quashed Mr Serunkuuma’s defence, saying some of the technocrats were not cooperative with the committee during data collection hence they went ahead to compile a report since they were already behind schedule.
“What the acting executive director is saying is not true because we did write to them to appear before our committee with all documents regarding purchase of Usafi but they never showed up. We have all the letters that we wrote inviting them. They only sent people to represent them but these people did not have the crucial information that we wanted. It is only the director legal who appeared,” she said.

Blame game
Ms Kanyike’s submission prompted the Lord Mayor to send the same committee to the top technocrats of KCCA to show them the Usafi market land titles and then present their findings to council.
She also revealed that although the committee summoned Mr Muwonge and Mr Ssekamatte to answer to the questions of the ownership wrangles of the land, the duo never showed up.
Mr Lukwago noted that the Usafi land controversy cannot be swept under the carpet yet it was bought by tax payers’ money at an ‘abnormal’ amount.
“There are still questions around the amount of money that bought that market. We can’t, therefore, keep quiet until we ascertain the exact land which KCCA bought. We are not fighting anyone here but we are doing our supervisory role as an Authority,” he said.
Kampala Minister Beti Olive Kamya could not be reached for a comment. Ms Monica Edemachu, the acting undersecretary for the Kampala ministry, said the minister was the best person to comment about the report.
The KCCA Authority council meeting recently passed The Kampala Capital City Ordinance, 2018.
It, among others, seeks to provide for a clear and comprehensive licensing for permanent, semi-permanent and temporary markets, overall management and control of all types of markets in the city, and processes through which market leaders in public markets can be elected.
KCCA says the new law will mitigate controversies that have since plagued city markets.