Members of Parliament on the Committee for Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) on Friday asked the Finance Ministry to speed up payment of sh69.5 billion it owes to the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC).
Government in 2013 resolved to auction vital assets of the URC that had been singled out, and identified as non-core assets, as a source of funds to sustain the operations of the entity, and settle its long standing debts.
These included 57 acres of URC land , which were sold at sh69.5 billion by the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) to about 10 private local investors.
What is shocking is that to this date, the money has never been paid to URC’s account, despite recurrent promises from the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development.
On Thursday, Finance Minister, Matia Kasaijja snubbed the meeting with COSASE members, after having been summoned to explain the delay of payments to URC.
Instead, he sent Evelyn Anite, the State Minister for Finance in charge of Investment and Privatization to represent him.
On the sight of Anite, MPs did not waste any time. They tasked her to explain why the URC was never paid.
They also told her to supply assurance to the committe, that she will effect the payments as soon as possible.
The legislators wondered why disparities exist in the land sale. These include why there was no formal letter by the Finance Minister authorizing the deal, and why up to 72.78 acres were sold, as opposed to 32.5 that were to be sold, according to cabinet.
In response, Anite shocked MPs when she disclosed that since taking over office in 2016, she has never seen any letter by the Minister of Works and Transport consenting to the sale of URC land.
She therefore implored the MPs to summon the former Finance Minister Syda Bbumba for more clarifications.
As a way of warding off trouble, she assured MPs that she will write a letter to the Finance ministry, authorizing the payment of the said funds to the URC.
She added that the money will be included in the budget of the financial year 2022/2023, pending approval from parliament.
She however failed to explain why more than 40 acres of the land was sold to other private developers, including 14 acres of land that businessman Hassan Bassajjabalaba acquired to expand Kampala International University which he instead sold to another investor.
COSASE chairman Joel Ssenyonyi made a shocking revelation that while the 14-acre land was sold to Hassan Bassajjabalaba in the public interest, he illegally decided to sell it to another investor for 15 billion shillings for his personal interests.
While appearing before the same committee, two developers failed to produce original documents regarding how they got plots on the land in question.
Mbarara North MP Mwesigwa Rukaari said he forgot where he kept the documents, while Mestil Hotel owner Jamet Kobusingye who appeared before the committee on Wednesday said the documents were burnt to ashes in a fire incident.
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