Lands minister Amongi continues to be quizzed by the lands committee

The Land Probe has tasked lands Minister Betty Amongi to explain circumstances under which her company acquired possession of four lucrative government properties in Kampala.

Amongi had appeared before the committee chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire following reports that she fraudulently used her position as a Minister and a member of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board to acquire the properties through a company she co-owns with her sister.

Most prominent among the properties is Plot 29, Acacia Avenue in Kololo registered in the names of Toshak Munubhai Patel. The property now houses Midcom Telecom. The other is a house on Prince Charles Drive in Kololo, land in Industrial area and another piece of land in Mengo-Kibuga.

Documents before the Probe Commission indicate that Amongi's company; Amobet Investments Limited secured approval for the property within two days of submitting the application. The same documents indicate that the company agreed to pay only 550,000 Shillings per month for each of the four properties.

George William Bizibu, the Executive Secretary of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board told the probe committee earlier that he had informed the Board about the availability of the property, shortly before he received an application from Amobet Investments Limited.

Justice Bamugemereire wondered how Henry Mubiru, the Managing Director of Amobet Investments Limited, easily accessed the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board without the help of the minister, who also happens to be his employer.

The Land Probe Lead Counsel Ebert Byenkya also wondered how Mubiru easily learnt about all the properties without the help of the Minister.

But Amongi explained that her Managing Director had tried to apply for the property earlier in 2010 before her appointment as a Minister but lost interest when he got another opportunity in Juba, South Sudan. According to Amongi, it was only later in 2015 that Mubiru started scouting for property in Kampala again and brokers led him to the four properties.

She denied knowledge of Mubiru's initial process of gaining access to the property saying that she only learnt about it when Mubiru found difficulties in evicting tenants at Midcom. Amongi said that she has never visited any of the four properties to date.

But Justice Bamugemereire said that it was impossible for Amongi not to know about Mubiru's dealings. She indicated to Amongi provisions under the Leadership Code Act that bars conflict of interest, influence peddling and others.

Justice Bamugemereire directed Amongi to read Section 12 of the Leadership Code Act that prohibits a leader's company to hold any contract with a government body that she or he controls.  A leader who contravenes with this provision is liable to vacate office or be dismissed.

Conflict of Interest is, according to the Leadership Code Act, defined as a situation where a leader has got to make a decision within his or her personal interest or public interest.

Ebert Byenkya, the Land Probe Lead Counsel said that the Minister's situation in the acquisition of the four properties in Kampala plays out well in the provisions of the law.

Amongi's appearance before the Land Probe following yesterday's issuance of criminal summons to Amongi by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire following futile attempts to serve the minister since April 3 this year.