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MPs probe missing UGX 15bn from custodian board bank accounts

Chairperson of the COSASE sub-committee Ibrahim Kasozi

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Members of Parliament on thecommittee Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) have quizzed Ministry of Finance officials over 15 Billion Shillings missing from accounts belonging to the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board.

The MPs were on Wednesday meeting the finance minister Matia Kasaija who led a team of officials including the Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi to respond to several anomalies regarding the bank accounts. Also present were current Custodian board members including the Executive Secretary George William Bizibu.

Kasaija is the current chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Custodian Board.

The sub-committee chaired by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi is investigating among other issues fraudulent acquisition of properties facilitated by government officials. The MPs are also investigating the total amount of proceeds received from the sale and rent of the properties held by the board.

A key witness in the hearing was finance ministry undersecretary Betty Kasimbazi who took over supervision of the Custodian Board in 2007.

Kasozi told Kasimbazi that the Divestiture committee of the custodian board was relieved of its duties in January 2006 with its final report showing a balance of 15.3 billion shillings from the sale of properties by December 2007.

Kasimbazi however disputed this figure noting that when she took over in 2007 she only inherited a total of 1.1 Billion Shillings on four different bank accounts. 

MPs were curious as to why two of these collection bank accounts were held in Stanbic Bank a commercial bank despite the Board’s collection accounts being previously in the Bank of Uganda. Kasaija had told the committee that when he previously acted as a supervising officer in the late 90s the body had only one operational account and a collections account in the Central Bank.

Despite Muhakanizi pointing out that all accounts in commercial banks had been closed in 2103, Kasimbazi could not explain how the Stanbic Bank accounts had materialized or who had opened them.

Kasozi demanded accountability for the missing 15 billion shillings noting that the Custodian Boards accounts do not show any compensations that could have depleted the accounts.

More anomalies were also detected as the hearing progressed with the committee discovering that the current Custodian Board officials deposit proceeds from the rent of properties directly onto the operational account instead of the collections account in Bank of Uganda. However, Bizibu told MPs that this was the system he found in place when he was appointed in 

Another irregularity in the operations of the Custodian Board was the fact that a total of 18 properties were sold in December 2017 without an unlawful board of valuers. 

Among the several properties that MPs have evidence of having been acquired through fraudulent means is Plot 3 Kampala Road, Plot 32 Queen Road where the person who repossessed the property came with letters of administration from the purportedly deceased owner and yet the MPs had interacted with the owner during a trip to London and Plot 72/74 William Street whose owner resides in Vancouver and yet the property had been repossessed after numerous attempts by a fraudster.  



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