MPs should investigate supplementary budgets

Thursday February 11 2021

A photomontage of Uganda Land Commission chairperson Beatrice Byenkya (left) and State Minister for Lands Persis Namuganza before the Budget Committee of Parliament yesterday. PHOTOS | ALEX ESAGALA

By Editor

The current saga surrounding the supplementary budgets presented to Parliament for approval requires serious scrutiny. 
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Lands, submitted a request for supplementary budget of billions of shillings purportedly to compensate different land owners to allow return of the evicted former occupants in Kampala outskirts of Lusanja and Ndeeba.
However, on the same day, the Uganda Lands Commission (ULC), the responsible government agency, said it was not aware of the plan for such compensations. The Lands ministers accused the ULC of indiscipline and sneaking a letter into Parliament to frustrate the budget request. 
State minister for Lands Persis Namuganza claimed the budget was made after a directive from the President. This claim too, has to be investigated and verified. How could the President issue a verbal directive as a basis for a request for funding of that magnitude? 
Parliament must put Lands ministers to task to prove the President asked them to requisition money for compensation. But even if the President did, these compensations are not in good faith. They are an abuse of taxpayers’ money. The eviction of people in Lusanja was a result of a court case. The court found these were illegal occupants who trespassed on a person’s land who is the lawful owner. They don’t need compensation at the taxpayers’ cost. 
If they think they have a good case against the landlord, they should appeal the judgment of the lower court. That is what the principle of the rule of law says. They cannot trespass on someone’s land and expect compensation by the taxpayer. It is the same case with the evicted church in Ndeeba. Both cases are court matters, let them be resolved in court.
Making taxpayers compensate trespassers would encourage impunity. People will simply occupy other people’s land and gang up to force government to compensate them, claiming they are victims when in actual fact, they are offenders. This Lusanja decoy must be investigated to a logical conclusion. 
However, it is strange that such compensation would be sought by the Ministry of Lands without the knowledge of ULC. This raises a red flag. 
There are also other questionable supplementary budget requests such as that of Namboole Stadium, which Parliament has already queried. But these may not be the only dubious budget requests coming to Parliament. Government agencies have adopted a habit of smuggling dubious funding requests disguised under other items. 
Parliament must do its work. Rescue taxpayers’ money.