UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The Attorney General (AG), Kiryowa Kiwanuka, recently issued new guidelines on how the Ministry of Finance and the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) should handle departed Asian properties.
Under the guidelines, the AG has declared that the DAPCB divestiture committee has no power to repossess, manage or allocate any property that has been dealt with by the Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija, according to the law.
He added that DAPCB has no power to cancel a certificate of repossession, because that power is exclusively vested in the High Court which hears appeals resulting from the decisions of the Finance Minister.
The law provides that any person who is aggrieved by any decision made by the Minister under the Act may appeal to the High Court within thirty days from the date when the decision is communicated.
The Attorney General’s opinion, issued on March 11, follows the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) sub-committee of the 10th Parliament’s report on its two-year investigation into the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) operations.
In the report, the Cosase sub-committee directed government to recover at least 100 departed Asian properties that had been fraudulently repossessed by former owners, and also recommended the prosecution of anyone who had taken possession of such properties.
However, the AG cautioned that the cancellation of repossession certificates that the Ministry of Finance had previously issued would be illegal, and would result in serious legal consequences on the side of government.
The Attorney General noted that the Finance Minister’s powers are limited to repossessing, selling or disposing of property for the failure of the former owner to return to Uganda within 120 days, but it is beyond the minister’s legal authority to cancel a certificate of repossession that he issued.
AG Kiwanuka further noted that he had been directed by President Museveni to render his opinion to government.
President Museveni had earlier warned fraudsters against grabbing Asian property under the management of the DAPCB, saying, “Why don’t you build your homes…why do you grab the Asian They worked for them. They don’t want to sweat for their own properties?”
In 1972, Former president Idi Amin expelled Asians, mainly of Indian descent, out of Uganda. Assets left behind by the Asians included property, which included businesses, stock and real estate.
In 1977, talks between the Government of Uganda and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees were held in Entebbe to discuss compensation of property left behind by departed Asians. As a result, through the UNHCR, Uganda agreed to pay compensation for assets left behind.
In 1983 Government passed legislation for the provision for the return of properties confiscated by Government to their former owners. By law, under the Expropriated Properties Act, all property that was left behind was vested in the Government of Uganda under the authority and management of DAPCB.
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