Thursday, November 30News That Matters

Minister kamya ,Uganda land commission chairperson Ms Byenkya clash over Shs12 billion

The Uganda Land Commission (ULC) chairperson yesterday clashed with the Minister of Lands, Ms Beti Kamya, before MPs after the latter presented a Shs12.1b supplementary budget to compensate six people.

While appearing before the Budget Committee of Parliament yesterday, the ULC boss, Ms Beatrice Byenkya, said the commission had not asked for any supplementary budget.

“Much as the commission needs the money, we never requested for this supplementary budget. I want it to be on record. So when I hear this, I just think the minister is trying to access the money using our institution. That is irregular. How can this be?” Ms Byenkya told the committee.

She also protested the listed six beneficiaries of the Shs12.1b, saying there are thousands of Ugandans who are supposed to be compensated by government but have not been paid and thus prioritisation of the six appeared dubious.

Ms Byenkya wondered how the six beneficiaries were selected. She said before the list of beneficiaries is agreed upon, it is supposed to go through ULC for consensus.

“I am shocked to learn that such amount of money was going to be given to only six beneficiaries. As the commission, we have been trying to spread the money so that all victims can get something,” she said.“People lost their land. The disadvantaged ones do not have the economic revenue from their money, many of them have become old and they need assistance and medication. Giving Shs12.1b to only six people out of the thousands is irregular and inhuman,”  the ULC boss added.

Ms Byenkya said there is a criteria ULC has been following to ask for compensation money from the Ministry of Finance, but if Parliament decides to approve the supplementary budget, they should remove the six beneficiaries and allow ULC distribute the money to the beneficiaries according to their urgency.

Upon her submission, MPs questioned Ms Kamya, who was accompanied by her deputy, Ms Persis Namuganza, to name who requested the money.

The MPs led by Ms Cecelia Ogwal (Dokolo Woman) asked both ministers   and ULC boss to take an oath that they will not change any of the statements each of them had presented. Only Ms Byenkya took the oath.

In her unsworn response, Ms Namuganza said her ministry asked for the Shs12b following President Museveni’s directive during campaigns of the concluded General Election.

“I learnt about all these people who were putting pressure on government for not giving them their money. They even went direct to the President, especially during the elections. He called the minister and told her the people who urgently needed their money and could have been compensated earlier on. The minister also wrote to ministry of Finance and here we are,”  she said.

Ms Kamya said out of the six beneficiaries,  five were to be paid based on Mr Museveni’s directive while one would be based on a court order.

Mr James Kakooza (Kabula County) cited Section 25(3) of the Public Finance Management Act, which states that “an accounting officer who intends to spend monies shall, in writing, request the minister for approval. The Minister may, upon request by an accounting officer, approve a supplementary budget of up to 10 per cent of the Contingencies Fund.”  

He said since ULC, which is the accounting officer, did not ask for the budget, it is irregular for the Minister of Lands to ask for it.
The committee was divided on the matter, with some MPs supporting Ms Namuganza who said ULC should accept the money.

They added that they do not have a right to deny or reject it. Some MPs dissented, saying the two government entities should harmonise their position.
Realising a stalemate, the committee deputy chairperson, Mr Patrick Isiagi,  dismissed the session, saying the MPs would have a closed-door meeting to decide whether to reject the supplementary budget or approve it, and give the money to ULC to allocate it to deserving beneficiaries.

The committee had summoned the two ministers and ULC officials after it was established in Parliament on Tuesday that the  Ministry of Lands had asked for various amounts of money without the knowledge of the Uganda Lands Commission.

The ministry had also asked for Shs6.8 billion to compensate the owner of Lusanjja land where many people were evicted, and to pay owner of the land in Ndeeba where a church was demolished after a court order.

The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, adjourned the debate on supplementary budget to today and referred the issue to the Budget Committee to settle the differences between the ministry of Lands and ULC.

Six beneficiaries

1.   Family of Kasiya Rwabukurukuru – Shs6.43b
2.   Stephen Peter Nagenda – Shs1.06b
3. Julius Busulwa –  Shs1.4b
4. Natalia Namuli – Shs1.6b
5. Yisaka Lwakana – Shs125m
6. Geoffrey Mugisha – Shs1.49b

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