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Temangalo scandal consumes nation

By John Njoroge

This year will be remembered as the year of the Temangalo-gate.

This scandal that began in February 2008 involved Security Minister Amama Mbabazi, Finance Minister Ezra Suruma, businessman Amos Nzeyi and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) top executives among others. Nzeyi and Mbabazi sold 411.44 acres (the real size may never be known) of their land to the pension fund at a cost of Shs 11.2 billion (Shs 24 million per acre).

According to NSSF Managing Director David Chandi Jamwa (since sacked), ministers Mbabazi and Suruma exerted pressure on him to purchase this land at an inflated value compared to the market value of land in the Temangalo area. He had earlier claimed that NSSF had purchased the land to build 5,000 low-cost houses. Another prospective seller, Brig. Henry Tumukunde, who was selling 1,000 acres of land in the same area at a lower value, was barred from dealing with NSSF.

Jamwa introduced the purchase idea to the NSSF board of directors – which has business associates to minister Suruma, Jamwa’s immediate boss. The board advised Mbabazi to give powers of attorney to Nzeyi for purposes of conducting business with NSSF to avoid a conflict of interest since Nzeyi, unlike Mbabazi, was not a government official.

Subsequently, the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory bodies and State Enterprises conducted a three-month investigation. The committee which at first was led by Erute County South MP John Odit (he was later fired from this position in absentia while on an overseas trip with the president and replaced by his deputy Kapelebyong County MP Johnson Malinga) interviewed 17 witnesses.A cross section of MPs including Buyaga County MP Barnabas Tinkasimire petitioned the president and parliament to investigate the dealings between the two ministers and a government entity. Tinkasimire was later, after a change of mind, to blame the scandal on political opportunist who wanted to destroy Mbabazi because he was a Protestant and a Mukiga by tribe.

The MPs on the committee also visited the land where it was discovered that the land had several encumbrances contrary to the sales agreement.

The scandal saw the emergence of factions and divisions within the NRM and the opposition. Claims from either sides ranging from attempted bribery, extortion, murder threats and even bank robbery graced the media for these three dramatic months. Security personnel from the CMI, ESO and ISO were dragged into the scandal as information changed hands and prominent security chief Charles Rwomushana lost his job.

In the end, Parliament declared Mbabazi and Suruma innocent to the dismay of Ugandans, prompting the opposition to walk out of Parliament in protest. But in a dramatic twist, the NSSF managing director David Chandi and his deputy Mondo Kagonyera were sacked in November for mismanaging workers’ funds!

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