By Moses Walubiri
The Executive Director of Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL), Erias Kiyemba, has called for an amendment to laws governing acquisition of land for public projects, saying protracted wrangles with land owners over compensation is hamstringing a host of investment projects.
Kiyemba told legislators on the parliamentary committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) that the challenges UETCL is facing in acquiring corridors for its pylons cuts across other government projects, many of them lying in limbo, even after securing funding.
“The problem of compensation is huge. The law demands that land be acquired at market value but some people end up sabotaging government programs. If possible, parliament should think of amending the laws to provide for sufficient compensation, but not on market value,” Kiyemba said.
MPs heard that many loan components are accruing interests without being put to use, as government entities struggle to compensate fragmented land owners.
“This is part of the reason for failure to absorb funds,” Kiyemba said in response to questions by MPs Amuriat Oboi and Angeline Osege about a number of claimants suing UETCL for trespass as a result of transmission lines traversing their respective properties.
The query is part of Auditor General Report for the financial year ending June 2010.
The Land Act and the constitution, although provide for compulsory land acquisition in public interest, mandates government, or it’s numerously entities to adequately compensate land owners at market rate.
However, the process, according to Kiyemba, tends to be protracted with some land owners legally challenging the value attached to their land by the Chief Government Valuer.
In the run-up to the Bujagali hydro power project, the contractor was locked in protracted negotiations with land owners, at one time raising apprehensions that the project might be delayed over the seemingly intractable compensation impasse.
Corridors for high voltage pylons demand an optimum width of 30m (15 meters on either side) in what Kiyemba deems a mandatory security measure.
UETCL is set to compensate land owners on the proposed 260km high voltage Tororo, Soroti, Lira power line and Mbarara Kasese (160km) line.
The colossal sums expended on such compensations, Kiyemba told MPs, invariably feeds into power tariffs.