Parliament deliberates on UBC land woes
Discussed in the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Entreprises on August 2nd, 2016
The committee of Parliament on Commissions, Statutory authorities and State Enterprises met the Uganda Broad Casting Corporation (UBC) on Queries of the Auditor General, for the year 2014. The committee was chaired by, Hon Anita Among and deputized by Hon. Okupa Elijah.
The first substantive board of the corporation was established in 2014 and many of the audit queries dated far back into the corporations existence for example the fraudulent sell of the corporations land, nonexistence of a board to mention a few.
During the meeting, the Corporation Secretary, asserted that UBC was unable to carry out valuation of its assets due to lack of resources, he mentioned the need to capitalise the corporation since they were not performing well in terms of non-taxable revenue. Mr. Simon Kaheru, UBC’s recently appointed board chair told the committee that UBC was mandated to provide a range of services to Ugandans despite them not making any commercial sense.
Way before the 9th Parliament and in the first and second sessions of the 9th Parliament, UBC used to air live plenary broadcasts to Ugandans, however, since they were not getting paid, the service was terminated. Consequently, UBC billed Parliament for UGX 10 billion for the services rendered. However, information received from the clerk of Parliament, Ms Jane Kibirige stated that the MOU signed with UBC in Clause 5, Ministry of Finance waived any financial costs per to be accrued by Parliament and therefore UBC had no valid claim. Initially UBC, through Hon Nabeta, Igeme, the former board chair had asserted that no MOU was signed and it’s for that reason that it was difficult to pursue the claim. Members of the committee faulted UBC management in that regard.
Another issue of contention that arose was that of the UBC land sold to the Habba Group of Companies at UGX 11.5 Billion and how it ended up in the possession of an MP, Hon. Margaret Muhanga. This arose when members asked if UBC land had titles and if they did, to declare them to the committee. This particular land did not have a title but had a caveat placed by the courts of law on request by the Corporation. During the probe by the committee led by Hon Nandala it was discovered that;
UBC sold land to the Haba group of companies back in 2011 which resold it to Deo and Sons in 2012 However, since the decision of sale was solely made by the board chair then, Mr. Chris Katuramu, UBC sued. After a court ruling on the same, the transaction to Haba and consequently Deo and Sons was cancelled as fraudulent. And yet UBC was not in possession of its title but was in the possession of MP Muhanga. She claimed to have bought the land, 23.1 acres of it from a court appointed auctioneer, Twinamasiko Auctioneers at UGX 10.2 Billion. Under oath she stated that she paid for the money in cash, after borrowing from friends, family and selling livestock. She also said the money was in her house and not in a bank and transported it to the venue of the transaction in a car. The money in Uganda shilling denominations was placed in bags, she added. Quixotically, she did not declare the transaction and neither did she file the tax returns on such a huge transfer of funds. Important to note is at the time the Money laundering Act was in place and clearly stated that monies above UGX 100 million need to be declared.
Mr. Kyazze, a land advocate in all courts explained to the committee how the transactions took place after a disclaimer of not being directly involved in the transaction. Members dissatisfied with his explanation concluded that MP Muhanga, Habba group and Deo and sons all colluded to defraud public assets and must be dealt with accordingly.
UBC was also pinned on the land in Kibira obtained by Hon Mary Karoro Okurut, then minister of Information. Asked if selling of land was the only way UBC would gain revenue, management answered in the negative and said all the transactions happened way before the new board was established and there were no traces of supporting documents for the same. Explaining futher, it was heard that there was no proper hand over given the Accounting officer then Mr. Kihika, also in attendance closed down all offices and they had to be broken into by the new board.
The meeting was adjourned after the Committee chair asked, Hon Muhanga to hand over the title to the chairperson’s office and UBC to bring all its missing supportive documentation.