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Land Commission Chair Unveils Rot in Compensation

But Byenkya objected to the payments saying that most of the said people have either been paid, are exaggerated, and some of them are non-existent. On Thursday, she unpacked files of the said landowners pointing out inconsistencies and irregularities in each of them. Byenkya said that some people have already been paid, others are exaggerating their property rates, while in some cases, the government is paying for hot air.
Beatrice Byenkya appears before Parliament appointments committee

Audio 6

The Uganda Land Commission (ULC) chairperson Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki has decried gross corruption and irregularities in land compensation in the country.  

Byenkya was on Thursday appearing before the Adhoc committee of Parliament investigating compensation in relation to land in Ndeeba on which a Church structure was razed last year, and the other in Lusanja, Wakiso district where scores of families had been evicted by one Medard Kiconco.

The Ministry of Lands had sought a supplementary budget of 12 billion Shillings to compensate these and more landowners, landowners, without the knowledge of Uganda Land Commission. According to the Ministry, of the 12 billion Shillings, at least 7.65 billion Shillings would go to Ephrain Enterprises in lieu of the Ndeeba land and Medard Kiconco, for the Lusanja land.

The rest would be shared by six other landlords. These include Kosiya Rwabukurukuru who is demanding 6.4 billion Shillings, Stephen Nagenda with 1.6 billion Shillings, Julius Busululwa who is demanding 2.2 billion Shillings, Natalia Namuli who is demanding 1.6 billion, Yisaka Lwakana who was demanding 1.17 billion Shillings and Geoffrey Mugisha who demands 1.5 billion Shillings.

But Byenkya objected to the payments saying that most of the said people have either been paid, are exaggerated, and some of them are non-existent. On Thursday, she unpacked files of the said landowners pointing out inconsistencies and irregularities in each of them. Byenkya said that some people have already been paid, others are exaggerating their property rates, while in some cases, the government is paying for hot air.    

In the case of Natalia Namuli, Byenkya indicated that the acreage is doubtful, while for Busuluwa Julius, the same property  has two files; one in the names Busuluwa Julius and a another in the names of Busuluwa Julius and Colonel Fenekhansi Mugyenyi. She says that according to their records, this property has already been paid for fully, yet the owners are now seeking double compensation.        

On Geoffrey Mugisha’s compensation of 1.5 billion Shillings, she says the claim is false and the 50 million Shillings which was already advanced to the claimant was paid erroneously.  

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She told the committee that such irregularities in the compensation are common, with files looking fine on face value yet they are actually irregular. Byenkya also faulted the former Minister of Lands Betty Amongi for her role in promoting the irregularities.

She claims Amongi put the Land fund under the Ministry of Lands yet it is supposed to be under the Uganda Land Commission, a move she says could have been deliberate because when she  objected, the minister threatened to remove her from the office.

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When contacted, Amongi said that she served the Ministry without any record of corruption and tasked Byenkya to present evidence of the same. She adds that she only acted on compensations which came as presidential directives, decisions from the cabinet, and genuine claimants whose filed had remained pending for so long.

“ I did my work at the Ministry of Lands without anything to do with corruption. All I did was to follow a presidential directive” she said on phone, adding that some of the people who were compensated under her tenure include a former MP, Mzeei Gureme and the Catholic Church, among others.         

She narrated to the committee that there exists a syndicate in the commission where staff including assistants have interests in files and influence whose files for compensation move first. Byenkya has also said the land compensation has become a syndicate with top officials running to landowners to crack deals.

She says that there are people whose compensations have been pending since 2008 because they do not know their way around. She gave an example of Frank Ndondo, from Kabarole who has been demanding compensation worth  8 billion Shillings, yet he has never been paid.

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Byenkya called on Parliament to allow them to take charge of the compensation process and not tag the 12 billion Shillings to the six individuals, or even the Church and Lusanja landowner. Byenkya added that although the Ministry of Lands now led by Beti Kamya requested a supplementary for compensation, they already had 40 billion Shillings in their budget for the same.

"When you look at the list, we did not need this money that urgently because I had already requested for sh40b for compensation through the Commission budget which the Ministry of Finance later allocated to us, “ she said.

She says that although the senior accountant and the Senior Finance Officer at the commission is supposed to handle the the land fund, as per the public service structure this is not happening, and the Secretary of the Uganda land Commission, has now delegated an account assistant to manage the funds.

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The committee chaired by Veronica Eragu Bichetero tasked the commission to provide the files of all the six people to be compensated, and the Auditor General’s report for the past three years, among others.