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ULC boss accused of deactivating land information system to facilitate crime

Interdicted ULC boss Beatrice Byenkya is at the center of controversy. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Embattled administrators of the Uganda Land Commission-ULC are again on the spot over deactivation of the commission access from the National Land Information Management System so as to criminally facilitate fraudulent transactions thus causing financial loss of billions of shillings to the government.

The system was deactivated for a period of about 15 months between September 2019 and April 2021, MPs on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises-COSASE discovered in an ongoing probe into the ULC.

Mwanje Muhammed, Chief Technical Officer at Uganda Telecommunication Limited-UTL, that provided the data link and connectivity to run the system told the MPs that they decided to disconnect ULC over non-payment of 78.8 million Shillings for their services.

Mwanje explained that UTL and ULC signed a binding agreement with the commission to provide a data link between the National Land Information Centre and the Uganda land commission worth Shillings 5 million monthly.

He added that before suspending the connection, UTL first issued a demand note on December 1st 2020 for an outstanding 62.4 million Shillings.

The second demand note was issued to the ULC on March 10th 2021 for an accumulated arrear of Shillings 78.8 million.

However, Mwanje informed the MPs that in both occasions, the commission never responded, prompting UTL to issue a 7 days ultimatum which still they never responded to and eventually they were disconnected on April 22nd 2021.

But on May 5th 2022, Mwanje revealed to the committee, that commission officials wrote to request to be reconnected while acknowledging the outstanding arrears which they promised to offset.

While tasked to explain why the system was deactivated, the interdicted chairperson of the ULC Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki told the lawmakers that she was hearing about the disconnection for the first time.

Equally, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Judith Nabakooba distanced herself from the deactivation of the system saying it was never brought to her attention.

Earlier while being cross examined, Charles Muhoozi, a Commissioner at ULC had informed the Committee that Byenkya had ordered the deactivation of the system. The response shocked the MPs who accused the ULC administrators of exploiting the period to involve in fraud.

Charles Bakkabulindi, the Workers MP cited connivance noting that UTL hastily reconnected the commission to the system before having been cleared of its outstanding payments.

Yusuf Nsibambi, the Mawokota County South MP requested the Committee chairperson Joel Ssenyonyi to subject the witnesses to oath noting that they were presenting contradictory information to the committee.

In 2013, the government initiated the 263.839 billion shillings World Bunk funded Land Information Management System to aid integration of digitalized high resolution geometrically corrected base map for conversion of freehold, leasehold and mailo titles.

It also aimed at restoring the integrity of land registration, establishing a modern land information and records system, decentralizing land services closer to the people, and eliminating land-based constraints to facilitate investment and contribute to national development.

According to recent data from the Lands Ministry, the system has generated a cumulative total of 876 billion Shillings in revenue since it was commissioned in 2013 to the first half of FY 2021/2022.

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URN

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