Land Probe unearth Shs22 billion scam to pay fake landlords

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Lady Jutice Catherine Bamugemereire, left, with Commissioner Joyce Habaasa, right, the commission recently. (PHOTO: STEPHEN WANDERA)

By Stephen Wandera wanderaouma@gmail.com

KAMPALA. Construction of Mutundwe Entebbe and Namave Luzira electricity high voltage transmission lines has been delayed due legal battles between government and land owners some of whom are fraudsters. According to Mr John Othieno, the principal environment officer, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) a firm and some individuals own land along both power lines in forest reserve and wetlands.

“We have now a contractor for Mutundwe Entebbe line but the Namave Luzira route, when the land owners realized that government was to cancel their land titles, they ran to court and secured a court injunction,” he said.

Logistics Real Estate, Ms Nalubega Barbara, Mr Gasana Emmanuel and Mr Semuga Hudu are some of the land overs with questionable land titles, Mr Othieno told the Land Probe.

The commission headed by Court of Appeal Judge Ms Bamugemereire, sitting at the National Records and Archiving Centre in Kampala, is investigating and soliciting views on the role of traditional, cultural and religious institutions who own large tracts of land with occupants in a move to enhance better landlord/tenant relationships.

The seven-member panel is also inquiring into the effectiveness of relevant bodies in the preservation of wetlands, forests and game reserves and examines ways in which the challenges of human habitation in those areas can be resolved.

He further explained that over 1000 beneficiaries of whom 67 percent have been compensated 23 percent not compensated due legal cases. Mr Othieno promised to fix short comings experienced in the past for future compensations.

His submission angered Lady Justices Bamugemerereire. “Do you know ministry of finance and lands the other day hand a meeting to pay Shs22 billion as compensation. You created fictitious persons to pay this money. If you think these funds will leave government coffers then you are joking. These issues will go far and we shall begin with you if you are joking,” she said.

However Mr Othieno declined knowledge of the meeting and promised that the illegal land owners will not be compensated as it has been in the past.

Currently UETCEL has 15 transmission lines of which he is the project manager for Kawanda Masaka, Mutundwe Entebbe and Soroti Moroto. A day earlier, Mr Othieno recorded a statement that indicated him as also the contract manager for Namave Luzira lines, an account he disowned when quizzed by Commissioner Mary Ochan.

“Who gave you authority to manage this project? You make such huge decisions that could be a basis for people to drag government to court for huge compensation to be made. Now you are one of the persons say government should put down Shs22 billion to compensate twenty people who feature in Entebbe Mutundwe and Namave Luzira Lines,” she said. Adding, “In one of your contracts, one point, a fake firm was awarded a contract but later cancelled. We want to seek action on individuals responsible for this action.”

Mr Othieno further insisted that no payment will be made to any one with titles not cleared by NEMA.

The Entebbe Mutundwe line is a loan worth Euros21 million and a grant of Euros2 million.

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