By Umaru Kashaka
MPs have quizzed officials from National Housing and Construction Company (NHCC) over inflation in the purchase of land in Kasokoso, Wakiso district.
The MPs allege that the price of the land that was bought from Kireka Estates Limited, an Asian-owned firm, shot up from an initial sh7b to sh13b.
During a meeting with the physical infrastructure committee on Friday, officials led by the company secretary, Henry Magino, explaining the recent violent clashes with squatters over the land located on the outskirts of Kampala, presented documents that showed that the company secured the lease for plots 4-15, 17-28, 30, 32-42, 58-89 and 164, all of which measured 250 acres on February 5, 1968. Another transfer was signed on November 23, 1972.
NHCC is seeking to develop the 293-acre land occupied by hundreds of settlers into a modern housing estate, which the squatters are resisting.
The committee heard that Kireka Estates had sued NHCC for breaching the conditions of the lease by not expeditiously developing the land. On December 5, 2011, court ruled in favour of Kireka Estates and ordered NHCC to pay it sh13b.
NHCC then revised the figure from the sh7b that was recommended by an independent valuer to sh13b without consulting the chief government valuer.
They wondered why the company entered the land deal knowing that the land had encumbrances, and that eviction is not an easy task.
“We need to bring to book people behind this suspicious increment. How could you decide to pay this huge sum of money for the land in 2012 when you knew there were squatters on it? You risked government money by doing this,” Bunya East MP Waira Majegere accused the officials.
NHCC, which started in 1964 with the mandate of increasing housing stock in the country, rehabilitate the housing industry and encourage Ugandans to own homes in an organised environment, is one of the remaining government parastatals.
Buhweju County MP and committee chairperson Ephraim Biraro told the officials that the bad legacy they leave might haunt them in the future.
“The laxity in civil service of buying land without due diligence has caused the Government problems. Please let’s have ethics.
Don’t do things the way your predecessors did them because they will haunt you,” Biraro warned. Explaining the payment, Magino said it was done at the market price of the time.
“I take responsibility for this. We paid this money to Kireka Estates through its lawyer (Kwesigabo, Bamwine and Walubiri Advocates),” he explained.
The committee, which was asked by the House to probe the land deal following the squatters’ run-ins with the Police late last year, expects to present its report to Parliament in three weeks’ time.
The committee started probing Kasokoso land wrangles in December last year.
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Kasokoso land saga: officials grilled over sh13b