The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) (Central Government) has expressed concerns about the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development’s approach to handling public land.
The committee chaired by Hon. Medard Lubega Ssegona, held a meeting on 05 July 2023, with officials from the ministry led by the Permanent Secretary, Dorcas Okalany to address issues highlighted in the Auditor General’s Report for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2022.
The Auditor General’s report emphasized the importance of government entities exercising proper control over land through valid land titles.
It also highlighted significant challenges faced in managing public land including disposal, reporting, utilization, and non-compliance with regulatory requirements.
These issues were adversely affecting the accuracy of financial statements and impeding service delivery.
During the meeting, the committee expressed alarm regarding the Ministry of Lands’ payments amounting to Shs19 billion for the acquisition of four parcels of land measuring 2339.04 hectares.
These payments were made due to court orders and presidential directives to compensate affected parties.
However, the committee raised concerns about the growing domestic arrears and government expenditure on land compensation resulting from the payments.
Ssegona questioned the ministry’s delay in compensating landowners since 1993 and emphasized the challenges in managing public land.
He faulted the ministry for allowing individuals allocated land in 1990 to enjoy its benefits while the original land owners remained uncompensated for over three decades.
He stressed that the delayed compensation is causing interest to accrue and financial losses to accumulate.
“And from 1990, how many years are those? 33 years; you grabbed somebody’s land in 1990, and 33 years later you have not compensated them. Meanwhile, the person you allocated the man’s land is enjoying. We are losing money because interest is building,” he added.
Ssegona specifically called on the ministry to address the issue of land brokers who exploit vulnerable individuals, especially elderly landowners by advocating for their claims within the ministry.
The committee demanded a comprehensive list of all beneficiaries of the ranches restructuring schemes, including the prices at which the land was acquired and the beneficiaries’ identities.
Hon. Fredrick Angura (NRM, Tororo South County) raised concerns about the allocation of government land, questioning the discrepancies between those granted land and those who were not.
Similarly, Hon. Eddie Kwizera (Bukimbiri County, NRM) sought clarification on the process of land donation to Ugandans and how the ministry ensures transparency and accountability throughout the process.
“We want to know the system. We want information on all the land that has been purchased, who it was bought from, who received it, and what the arrangements are because some people need land. But what is the process?” he inquired.
Kumi Municipality MP, Hon. Silas Aogon highlighted the inequality in the country, where some individuals receive government support in obtaining land while others do not.
“Who are these people that the government pays for land, while the rest are left without? In Kumi, we have several landless people, and when they are being evicted, no one comes to their rescue,” Aogon questioned.
In response, Okalany explained that although the government had conducted valuations, it had not compensated the affected individuals, leading them to seek legal recourse.
Regarding the list and land allocation, the team assured the MPs that they would present the requested information, including details on how the land was allocated.