• Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The State House Anti-Corruption Unit has been carrying out a series of investigations on the ownership of the disputed property Plot 5 Mackenzie Vale in the affluent Kololo neighbourhood of Kampala. This property has been at the centre of a lengthy property dispute for the past five years, both within and outside of court.

Both Mr Geoffrey Baguma, a businessman, and Mr Sadruddin Valimahomed, the estate administrator of the late Tajdin Alidina Valimahomed, are claiming ownership of this Kololo property.

How it all Began

Early last month, on suspicion of defrauding several people out of nearly USh600 million by pretending to assign them properties Mr Moses Bizibu was detained. He is the embattled executive secretary of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board (DAPCB), a statutory body that ensures orderly [re]transfer of property to Asian owners who returned to Uganda after years, following their forceful departure from Uganda to India, collect debts, and deal with property sales, on suspicion of defrauding several people out of nearly USh600 million by pretending to assign them properties.

Following the 1972 deportation of Asians by president Idi Amin, the property was lost.

According to the records, the late Valimahomed requested to take control of this property on June 22, 1992, and on October 16, 1995, he was given a certificate of repossession. His registration was renewed on November 3, 1995.

Through their attorneys, the Indian family learned of the inquiry into the property by the COSASE on September 5, 2019, according to a letter from the DAPCB.

The DAPCB informed the owners that the certificate of repossession they possessed was invalid after a series of events that began with back-and-forth correspondences.

Additionally, DAPCB admitted that they weren’t legitimately given the land. The DAPCB was then sued by the late Valimahomed in the early months of 2019, but the case was ultimately dropped.

“We have sought assistance from various state and security agencies, including but not limited to Police, State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Minister of Internal Affairs in vain,” a February 22 petition sent to President Museveni reads.

Investigations Begin

The plan fell apart after a subcommittee of the then-Mubarak Munyagwa-led COSASE scrutinised the DAPCB’s activities in 2019 in response to concerns expressed by Auditor General John Muwanga in a 2016 audit.

It was discovered that there was widespread corruption, including dubious transfers and wrongdoing that was meticulously planned behind closed boardroom doors.

The lack of a thorough inventory for all expropriated property, obstinate and unyielding witnesses who willfully disobeyed summonses, and the Attorney General’s office’s refusal to cooperate in providing documentation and provide a legal opinion on legal issues were among the obstacles the committee faced in conducting its investigations.

The committee found among other things, that the DAPCB had doubled or made duplicate property allocations, which had resulted in prolonged property disputes.

Additionally, it was found that several properties for which the government had previously provided compensation had fallen into the hands of dishonest people.

Later, these individuals transferred the same without warning to legitimate buyers for value.

“All redeemed properties in respect of which special certificates of title were issued and yet the original certificates of title are in the custody of the board should be cancelled and the perpetrators be prosecuted,” COSASE recommended.

However, the parliamentary report’s conclusions and suggestions are now void.

The COSASE report was invalidated by the High Court in Kampala last month because the committee went beyond its authority and lacked proper authorisation when it attempted to investigate properties already covered by the Expropriated Properties Act, and for which certificates of repossession had already been granted.

The court decision followed a suit filed against the Attorney General by Mr Mohammed Allibhai, managing director of Tight Security, on behalf of the former owners of the various seized properties in the repossession and management process.

The estate of Valimahomed hired Tight Security in 2009 to watch over the property in Plot 5, Mackenzie Vale.

However, when a dispute arose over the property, the police fired the security firm.

Additionally, it has come to light that Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka issued a legal opinion stating that the committee’s recommendation to annul all titles is incompatible with the law as it is.

The COSASE report now joins a lengthy history of inquiry findings that expose endemic misconduct throughout government and whose recommendations, including criminal punishments, have been delayed after months of investigations and millions of taxpayer money spent.

According to Dr Sarah Bireete, executive director of the Centre for Constitutional Governance, while every nation depends on the rule of law to uphold human rights and advance the common good, it has become customary for those under investigation to file lawsuits alleging unjust treatment.

“I support the notion that the rules of natural justice should apply in all situations at all times, but we should not intentionally promote habits of running to courts of law under the claim of unfairness or arbitrariness to defeat the ends of justice,” Dr Bireete says.

Because the subject had previously been resolved by courts of law, Justice Boniface Wamala of the High Court stated in the COSASE report case that the committee’s conclusions were unlawful.

Dr Bireete agrees with the decision and adds that “Article 92 prohibits Parliament to engage in any actions or enact laws aimed at defeating court decisions.”

But what has become standard is a fraud, not a dubious scheme.

A forensic audit of the court awards, particularly those quickly completed by the Finance Ministry in response to court orders of mandamus after employees from the Finance and Justice ministries were suspected of colluding, was ordered by the legislative Public Accounts Committee in April 2016.

A USh78 billion “mandamus payment” had been made at that time by the Finance Ministry in response to court judgments against the government. Mr Muwanga was thus instructed to determine whether the documents supporting the payment request were orders of mandamus requiring urgent payments.

The investigations followed several claims of collaboration between the officials, attorneys, and judges of the ministries to either lose lawsuits against the government or grant absurd compensation amounts.

A group of involved lawyers obtained a court injunction to stop the audit midway through Mr Muwanga’s investigation. The Office of the Auditor General has yet to speak out on the topic of court awards because of fear.

A working draught of the report states that the forensic audit questioned the majority of the payments, including approximately USh44b that, although being designated as mandamus, was not “backed by writ of mandamus from the courts of justice.”

The audit discovered that an investigation of the parent files in the Justice ministry had turned up no proof of the aforementioned injunction.

The Finance Ministry was unable to find any proof of the stated writ elsewhere.

Catherine Bamugemereire Investigations

A seven-member Commission of Inquiry examining the mismanagement of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) since its founding in 2008 was appointed by President Museveni some months earlier in 2015.

Catherine Bamugemereire, a current Court of Appeal judge, was invited to serve as its chair.

The committee determined that corruption had a “significant” overall influence on UNRA from its inception until 2015.

In its final report, the investigations deepened about how USh4 trillion of the USh9 trillion given to UNRA between 2009 and 2015 had been “misappropriated.”

Despite the final report’s jaw-dropping accusations of widespread wrongdoing that were delivered in May 2016, no legal action has ever been taken.

The High Court has since invalidated some portions of the report.

Later, President Museveni would choose Justice Bamugemereire to head the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters, whose conclusions and recommendations were overturned by the Constitutional Court in September 2020.

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