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Financial woes hit land commission

By John Semakula, Mary Karugaba

Added 21st April 2018 06:11 PM

The MPs have demanded to know when the commission’s work will end.

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The MPs have demanded to know when the commission’s work will end.

The high expenditure of tax payer’s money on Justice Catherine Bamugemereire’s Commission of Inquiry into land matters is tickling legislators in a wrong way and raising dust.

Members of Parliament (MPs) on the physical infrastructural committee of Parliament are now demanding for tangible results from the commission before releasing extra funds for its work.

The MPs have been tickled to act by the Ministry of Land’s budget statement for 2018/2019 that included an allocation for the commission.

 The MPs have demanded to know when the commission’s work will end.

New Vision has learnt that the commission has so far received cash to a tune of sh13b since mid-last year when its work started. It has also now requested for another sh7.8b in supplementary budget.

The sh20.8b which the commission will now use is enough to oragnise LC1 elections whose budget is sh16b.

Jim Mugunga, the spokesperson of Ministry of Finance confirmed to New Vision that they have received an application for a supplementary budget from the commission.

“We received all the required information from the commission and we are scrutinising them before taking a decision on funding needs and availing appropriate resources within available resources envelope,” Mugunga said.

Justice Bamugemereire’s commission was constituted in 2016 by President Yoweri Museveni to investigate and inquire into the law, processes and procedures by which land is administered and registered in Uganda among other roles.

It was constituted at the time when Uganda was grappling with increasing cases of land wrangles that resulted into bloodshed. The commission was supposed to work for six months but its term was extended in November after expiring.

Henry Kibalya, one of the MPs on the committee told New Vision that the daily expenditure of the commission is very high to entertain.

“The committee is concerned that a lot of money has already been spent on the commission yet without tangible results. Have you heard that any piece of land that was stolen has been recovered and returned to the rightful owners?” he asked.

Kibalya reasoned that commissions of inquiry should work like committees of Parliament where members are required to table a report of their findings after a given period of time to take action.

“But we are not certain of the outcome of the commission and whether if the results of the inquiry will ever be implemented,” he said. “We have had several commissions of inquiry in the past whose reports have only been shelved.”

Kibalya added that as the committee they still feel like there is no justification for the billions of shillings being injected into the commission.

“So we are investigating the committee and we shall table our findings and decisions to the budgetary committee of Parliament,” he said.

While meeting the Minister of Lands Betty Amongi last week, committee members insisted that they will only approve extra funding for the commission after it has provided actual accountability as at the end of the third quarter of financial year 2017/2018.

The committee was chaired by its chairperson, George Nsamba of Bbaale County. Members asked the minister to table the commission’s status report detailing the preliminary recommendations that requires immediate action.

The minister said she had already written to the commission to account for the funds. “They are yet to provide us with a copy of the status report,” Amongi said.

Justice Bamugemereire has explained before that any commission of inquiry has got impact and that even if its results were not wholly implemented, one day posterity will read the report.

Since it started its inquiries last year, the land commission has had about 140 sittings. The team has visited Ghana, United Kingdom, and South Africa, spending at least seven days in each country. This translates into about sh470m for seven commissioners for 21 days abroad.

But critics have questioned the choice of the three countries for benchmarking, arguing that some of their tenure systems and historical contexts differ from Uganda’s.

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