• Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

Minister of Finance Sorry for ‘Illegal’ USh10 billion Supplementary to ULC

UGANDA, Kampala Real Muloodi NewsHon. Matia Kasaija, Minister of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development has apologised for the USh10.6 billion additional budget for the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) to compensate land claimants in the Buganda and Bunyoro sub-regions in the Fiscal Year 2020/2021.

Kasaija stated that the supplemental request was unconstitutional and erroneously accepted without following the proper processes outlined in the Public Finance Management Act of 2015.

Kasaija made the admission on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE).

The committee is looking into the source of the supplement after the Auditor General’s report raised concerns.

According to preliminary investigations, legal processes were not adhered to when processing the supplemental, which was given to six land claimants, some of whom were reportedly ghost recipients.

Initially, Kasaija stated in his presentation that the supplemental was legal and binding and that it was approved after going through all of the required government procedures under the law.

However, when questioned further by the committee on the legal requirements for starting a supplemental, the minister quickly apologised and admitted that there were some abnormalities in the process.

“This supplementary was in error; it was not supposed to be initiated by the Minister of Lands. If you are to follow the law strictly, then my ministry should have rejected this and should not have approved it. It is the Uganda Land Commission that should have sent in the request [for a supplementary] and not the Minister of Lands,” Kasaija said.

According to Kasaija, the supplemental budget was initiated by the then-Minister of Lands, Hon. Beti Kamya. On on March 12, 2021, Kamya requested the Ministry of Finance to make available Shs10.62 billion for ULC to compensate six land claimants as authorised by the President.

He was unable, however, to provide the committee with the supposed letter from the President.

The six land claimants who benefitted from the Shs10.6 billion supplemental (Shs1.49 billion) are:

  • Kasiya Rwabukurukuru (USh6.43 billion)
  • Stephen Peter Nagenda (USh1.06 billion)
  • Julius Busuulwa (USh1.4 billion)
  • Natalia Namuli (USh1.6 billion)
  • Yisaka Lwakana (USh125.3 million)
  • Geoffrey Mugisha (USh1.49 billion)

“I think we should ask Hon. Beti Kamya to give us a copy of this letter from the President because I do not have a copy but I will check if I was given one,” he said.

Kasaija chastised his technical team for leading him astray by granting a supplemental request that had not been initiated by the end-user agency.

He also suggested that the committee invite the then-Treasury Secretary, Keith Muhakanizi, to clarify some of the illegalities surrounding the supplemental.

The MPs urged the minister to proceed with prudence while considering suggestions that might result in significant losses and waste of public money.

“Why does our Finance Minister not read these documents and do proper due diligence before signing them? Your signature is a very powerful one because it releases money and so on. You should have done due diligence by being sure who is initiating the supplementary and the whereabouts of the presidential directive,” COSASE chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi said.

Hon. Joyce Bagala, Mityana District Woman Representative, has called on the Minister of Finance to rein in his “misleading” technical staff and quit if he is overburdened by government obligations.

“It sounds to me that the minister is overwhelmed by the work he is doing and if he feels so, then he should resign. And if you [minister] feel the technical officers have failed you, then why not take action against them because it is not the first time you have told this committee that you have been failed by your technical staff,” Bagala said.

ULC Boss Beatrice Byenkya had Raised Alarms About the Payout

On February 10 2021, chairperson Byenkya appeared before the parliamentary budget committee and clashed with Beti Kamya, then Lands Minister, and Persis Namuganza, State Minister for Lands, over the compensation to the six beneficiaries under the Land Fund.

Chairperson Byenkya protested what she described as selective compensation of six landowners with such a huge sum of money, when many more had waited for years to receive compensation from the Land Fund, in vein.

Byenkya had earlier written a letter to Parliament accusing the Ministry of Lands of not involving her commission in the compensation matter. She said as chairperson of the ULC, she was not privy to information about the beneficiaries and the processes that led to their compensation, despite ULC being the responsible entity for compensations.

However, Ministers Kamya and Namuganza insisted that the six beneficiaries should be considered first since they were cleared by the Ministry of Lands following a presidential directive.

Members of Parliament sided with chairperson Byenkya on the matter, saying that the request before them was irregular and that Parliament should not be seen supporting irregularities.

After the officials from the Ministry of Lands failed to build consensus, Budget Committee vice-chairperson Patrick Isiagi dismissed them from the meeting, saying that his Committee would come up with a recommendation.

After Kamya and Namuganza had vacated the room, Byenkya accused the Ministers of usurping the ULC powers and undermining the Commission’s mandate.

“The ministers are supposed to supervise but they want to manage the operations of the Commission. That is why when I saw this request, I ran quickly and blocked the approval. The political leadership is trying to usurp our powers,” said Byenkya.

However, the clash from February 2021 came back to bite Byenkya.

In the months after the confrontation, Betty Kamya, former Lands Minister, went on to become the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the main arbitrator in investigations into alleged misconduct against Byenkya, leading to her suspension.

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