Land Commission on Spot over bribes for land compensation claims

The embattled Uganda Land Commission ( ULC) officials are on the spot again for alleged corruption after being implicated by a claimant for pestering him for a bribe to help ‘expedite’ his compensation.

 Geoffrey Mugisa, a resident of Buyaga County in Kibaale made the revelation while appearing before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises ( COSASE) Wednesday.

The Committee is investigating ULC for the glitches relating to the Sh10.6 billion paid out to six claimants as revealed in the Auditor General’s report for FY 2020/2021.

Mugisa, being one of the beneficiaries of the pay-out, bagged Sh1.49 billion for his 208 hectares of land in Kibaale, which he sold to the Government through ULC. 

He, however, told the Committee that in order to process his payments, ULC officials tasked him to pay a bribe. 

Mugisa disclosed that the Land Commission Chairperson Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaiski demanded 50 percent of the land, which at the time was valued at Sh1.544 billion.

 He first received an advance payment of Shillings 50 million in 2016 and an outstanding balance of Sh 1.4 billion in 2021.

Apart from Mugisa, other claimants who were compensated included the late Kasiya Rwabukurukuru who received Sh6.43 billion for land at Kiyunga in Sheema District, Stephen Peter Nagenda of Rwanswa in Kibaale who received Sh1.06 billion , Julius Busuulwa received Sh 1.4 billion, Natalia Namuli received Sh1.6 billion, Yisaka Lwakana received Sh 125.3 million. 

Only Mugisa and Natalia Namuli turned up for the meeting. 

The four other witnesses did not show up, which prompted the committee to issue a criminal warrant of arrest for contempt of Parliament.

 The Kyandondo East MP Muwada Nkunyingi tasked Mugisa to explain how he acquired the 208 hectares of land at the age of 13 in 1996.

The Committee Chairperson Joel Ssenyonyi tasked Mugisa to provide evidence of the phone number and details of the agent who sought the bribe from him and his account number where the money was paid. 

Following the probes, two officials of the ULC, Siraj Isabirye, the former Senior Accountant, and Joan Namulondo, the Principal Human Resource Officer were arrested to aid police with further investigations. 

Barbara Imaryo, the Commission’s Secretary/Accounting Officer who made the payments without the Board’s approval is still on the run.

She was suspended alongside Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki, the commission chairperson in March this year on the orders of President Yoweri Museveni following allegations of gross financial mismanagement, corruption, and abuse of office.

The Committee also probed the then Minister of Lands Beti Kamya Turomwe (now the Inspector General of Government – IGG) for originating the Shillings 10.6 billion supplementary budget while in office without involving the Board. 

Kamya was accused of flouting the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 but she denied the claims. On May 31st, 2022, the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija apologized before the committee indicating that his technical staff misled him into approving a supplementary budget of Sh 10.6 billion to offset the six land claimants. 

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