The parliamentary probe into the irregular purchase of 435 acres of land by the National Social Security Fund in Temangalo went directly to the source of the conflict today with the quizzing of Security Minister Amama Mbabazi over his role in the deal.
NSSF purchased the land belonging to Amama Mbabazi and his friend and business partner, Hot Loaf Bakery proprietor, Amos Nzeyi at an inflated price. Assessments conducted by three independent valuers indicated that Mbabazi and Nzeyi sold the land at 60 to 80 percent more than its market price.
From the get go, Mbabazi denied having any direct dealings with NSSF over the Temangalo land deal. He said the sale of the land was completely managed by Nzeyi, who worked together with Arma Limited, a company owned by the Minsiter.
The Parliamentary State and Statutory Enterprises Committee quizzed Mbabazi about these claims.
The MPs started by asking Mbabazi how he came to know that NSSF was looking for land to build a housing estate. NSSF did not advertise for the land in any way and Mbabazi was challenged about how he came to such detailed insider information.
The Minister quickly went on the defensive. He said Amos Nzeyi and the Arma Limited managers were the ones who dealt with the entire transaction. He insisted that he had no previous knowledge of it.
The MPs, prepared for this, presented two letters to Mbabazi. The first was a letter from the NSSF board advising the Minister to appoint a third party to handle the sale of his land in Temangalo. The second was a response from Mbabazi informing the NSSF external lawyer, Joseph Byamugisha, that he had granted Nzeyi power of attorney in finalizing the land sale.
The MPs said this communication was suspicious. They asked Mbabazi how, if he had no prior knowledge of the deal, he directly communicated with NSSF over the sale agreement.
Mbabazi was adamant. He insisted that he was never directly involved in the NSSF deal. He told the MPs to direct any questions they had on the matter to Amos Nzeyi when he testifies before the parliamentary committee tomorrow.
Questioning then turned to information that about five acres of land that Mbabazi sold to NSSF was occupied by squatters. When the probe committee visited Temangalo in Wakiso district last week, several squatter families complained that they had not been informed of the planned sale of the land and were not compensated for their loss.
Uganda's land law prohibits the arbitrary eviction of long-term squatter communities.
Mbabazi admitted to knowing that there were squatters living on the land. He said that Amos Nzeyi, acting on his behalf, was however not privy to this information and did not include the squatters in the sale agreement with NSSF.
//Cue in: iWhen this sale agreement #i
Cue out: i# including all these.i//
The interrogation of Minister Amama Mbabazi lasted for more than seven hours and often went into technical discussions regarding bank accounts, money transfers and whether a section of the land sold was a protected wetland or not. Throughout the day, Mbabazi maintained that he was innocent of any wrong doing.
Mbabazi said he had not broken any laws, not even the Leadership Code of Conduct that prohibits political leaders in his position of having direct dealings with a major state enterprise.
temangalo land deal