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Land probe saves UGX 1 trillion from fraud as inquiry ends

FILE PHOTO: The Bamugemereire commission on land

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  | The Commission of Inquiry into land matters has formally concluded its operations ending more than two years of probing irregularities in the land sector.

The seven-member team was appointed on December 8, 2016, by President Yoweri Museveni to inquire into the Effectiveness of Law, Policies and Processes of Land Acquisition, Land Administration, Land Management and Land registration.

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, the chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry says that her team registered six major accomplishments during the duration of its operations and halted the payment of a total one trillion Shillings in irregular payments.

“Examples where the Commission has saved the government from incurring significant financial loss include 100 million shillings in Isimba Hydro Power Project in respect of claims for compensation for a rock” she stated, adding that another 132 billion Shillings not yet allocated was also halted and is pending court proceedings.

The Commission received 7,767 complaints and conducted almost 600 public hearings alongside locus in visits, with half of the complaints on land grabbing and evictions, corruption and fraudulent land practices.

Justice Bamugemereire said over 160 titles in Nakivubo, Kinawataka, Namanve and Nambigirwa wetlands and Namanve, Mugomba central forest reserves and Gunda local forest reserve were cancelled halting payment of 40 billion shillings in compensation claims.

According to Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, inquiries by the Commission discovered numerous irregularities in payments from the land fund to a number of persons claiming on behalf of other applicants. One applicant was found to be involved in questionable claims totalling more than 9.7 billion Shillings.

Some of the accomplishments named in the statement include cancellation of illegal titles by the Commissioner Land Registration including titles in Wetlands and forest reserves, and other fraudulently acquired titles as well as increased public awareness on land matters, land rights and protection of wetlands and forests.

The others are; exposing fraud in the lands sector in which the Commission unearthed dirt and corruption, an attack on impunity where ‘untouchables’ were investigated; and exposure of curious compensation claims for titles in Wetlands, forests and other similar areas unavailable for individual ownership under the law among others.

“The Commission exposed shocking cases of double titling where several persons hold titles over the same parcel of the land and the weaker party (many times have spent a long time on the land) gets driven off the land by the stronger party”.

The Commission of Inquiry has indicated that it is recommending the adoption of the traditional methods of dispute resolutions in which mediation is prioritized over tedious court procedures.

On evictions, Justice Bamugemereire said Court has adopted a new eviction and practice guideline issued by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe following some of the exposures by the Commission and the interaction it had with the judiciary.

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