President’s office distances itself from minister Amongi’s claims about compensation

By Sania Babirye
The troubled Lands Minister Betty Amongi has been disowned by the office of the president in relation to withdrawing huge sums of tax payers money from the land fund  to compensate alleged claimants.
Minister Amongi had claimed that she was   directed  by the president’s  office while she was being grilled by the land probe commission over illegal compensations.
However while appearing before the same commission chaired by justice Catherine Bamugemeire, the principle private secretary to the president Molly Kamukama rather denied the allegations and explained that when petitions concerning land matters reach her office , she usually writes back and  directs the relevant ministry to manage, investigate the complaint and after investigations then writes a report back to the minister.
Kamukama revealed that instead,  minister Amongi undermined the  directives by directly taking it upon herself to withdraw money from the land fund without reporting back to the office of the president or being cleared by the same office as required.
Last week , Minister Betty Amongi told the land probe commission that  she  received several directives from the president to urgently pay- off beneficiaries of  the Uganda Land fund ; whose land has been taken over by government for either settlement or  economic development .
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has for that matter suggested to Kamukama that the office of the president should not  even wait for the commission’s report and recommendations  but to immediately  deal with such people who steal money from the land fund and deprive off the right beneficiaries.

Bukalasa Lands Office advised to kick out land agents

The Commission of Inquiry into land matters has advised administrators of Bukalasa Lands Office in Luweero district to kick out land agents in order to regain public trust.

The commission issued the advice after getting reports that land agents had taken over Bukalasa Land Office, triggering massive corruption and cheating residents who are seeking to process land titles.

By Thursday evening the commission had registered over 30 complaints against Bukalasa Land Office from residents.  One of the complainants; Steven Kalema, a resident of Nakatete village in Kikyusa Sub County told the commission that he  lost 120 acres to one Edwin Lubwama who fraudulently obtained a title for the same piece of land.

The other case involves Elizabeth Babirye, an elderly resident of Kitanda in Bombo Town Council who was declared dead by another person who secured letters of administration for her land and later was issued with a land title.

In both cases, the complainants partly accused land agents of abetting forgery for letters of administration and succession certificates. Other petitioners told the commission that they are compelled to seek the services of land agents because they process land titles in two days yet ordinary people spend months without success.

Commissioner Rose Nakayi tasked Denis Kahabura, a registrar at Bukalasa Land Office to explain the need for land agents instead of dealing directly with the applicants.

Kahabura told the commission that the agents had been evicted from the precincts of the land office after several complaints were lodged against them. However, they are still submitting applications for land titles on behalf of residents who entrust them.

He added some agents have been arrested for conning residents but later released without charge.

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, the head of the commission observed that the existing measures are not guarding the public against exploitation by agents who are close to the officers. She advised that the office must dismiss all land agents and work directly with applicants to stop distrust from general public.

Justice Bamugemereire further explained that the presence of land agents at the facility shows that there is a gap which should also be closed by registrars. She also expressed disappointment over poor storage of land titles and other official documents

Robert Opio, the Commissioner in Charge of Registration of Land Titles also told the commission that the process of cancelling land titles in question and re-registering them in the names of the rightful owners has already started.

He however noted that some of the management problems at Bukalasa Land Office will be addressed by the computerization system.

The Commission of inquiry adjourned until next week. The Commission is inquiring into the effectiveness of the law, policies and processes of land acquisition, land administration, land management and registration.