By DailyNewsUG Business Correspondent,
COSASE is a standing committee of parliament of Uganda which is mandated to account all reports of every financial year of all commissions, statutory authorities and state enterprises. It carries out accountability for the
effective performance of public sector organizations.
A select sub-committee on the Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) barely a year ago, tabled a report with recommendations over the repossessed departed Asians’ properties. However their implantation has been dealt a huge blow.
Before the finance ministry could present the treasury memoranda to Parliament on the report’s recommendations adopted by the House in April last year, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka gave a legal opinion on March 22 dismissing the recommendations of the report.
Chaired by the then Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi, the COSASE sub-committee that probed the rot in the Departed Asians Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) for over a year in the wake of the findings of the Auditor General’s report of 2016, had recommended the cancellation of the repossession of properties whose original proprietors did not return to the country physically.
During the probe, the sub-committee had observed that most of the expropriated properties were being managed by agents most of them now real estate moguls in Uganda, on behalf of the Asians who never returned by 1993, about two decades after their 1972 expulsion by former president, Iddi Amin.
“All repossessions whose former owners didn’t return physically to manage the properties as required by law should be cancelled or revoked for being null and void. The minister should invoke his/her powers under section 9(1) of the Expropriated Properties Act (EPA) to make an order to either retain such properties as government or the same be disposed of in a manner prescribed by regulation 11 of the Expropriated Properties (Repossession and Disposal) Regulations,” reads part of the recommendations in the COSASE report.
Parliament further adopted the recommendations that called for revocation of transfers of ownership of properties that had been done on basis of letters of repossession and called for prosecution of individuals who perpetrated the repossessions because it was fraudulent. Such properties it was recommended would revert to the government of Uganda.
However, in his opinion, the AG advised the finance minister Matia Kasaija who is the supervisor of DAPCB that in response to recent debates with in the government any action on some of the recommendations of the COSASE sub-committee will increase lawsuits.
“Although the COSASE sub-committee investigations elicited findings similar to those of the Auditor General’s report, the recommendations of the COSASE sub-committee that the departed Asians board initiates the process of cancellation of certain repossession certificates and any substitute title is legally untenable,” Kiryowa stated.
He based his opinion on the provisions of section 9(1)(d) of the Expropriated Properties Act Capt 87 and case law, saying if the government loses such cases that may arise from actions that are legally untenable, there could be huge financial losses in costs awarded by courts of law.
Kiryowa opined that once the certificate of repossession have been issued in respect of expropriates properties, then the DAPCB has no mandate whatsoever to deal with such property because its divestiture committee does not have powers to repossess, manage or allocate any property that has been dealt with by the finance minster.
“Once the minister of finance has dealt with an expropriated property by issuing a repossession certificate, a certificate of purchase or certificate of receipt, he or she has no powers under the act to cancel the certificate issued even if there was an error on the part of the government,” he guided.
The COSASE sub-committee caused tremor over the ownership or management of several properties in Kampala and countrywide as it looked to open wounds of past fights over expropriated properties.
However Kampala tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia successfully argued before the sub-committee regarding the ownership of plot 24, Kampala road after DAPCB had testified that the prime property was never repossessed and ought to be in hands of the government.
In its report, the COSASE sub-committee listed Sudhir as the rightful owner of the property having floored DAPCB in court in 2012.
Sudhir’s case is one of the 13 cases that DAPCB had lost by the time of the probe. The DAPCB had so far won 10 cases, whereas 99 cases remained unconcluded.