The Minister for Lands, Betty Amongi has said that the atmosphere when she appeared before the Land Inquiry committee this week did not accord her an opportunity to defend herself regarding the allegations of land grabbing.
Amongi clarified that the property in Kololo for which she was questioned this week by the Commission of Inquiry investigating land fraud was rented to her as opposed to claims that she had grabbed it.
Earlier this week, Amongi appeared before the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Commission to answer among others how she acquired Plot 29 Acacia Avenue in Kololo, Kampala whose ownership is also claimed by an Asian family. The family say their grandparents owned the property at the time when properties belonging to Asians were expropriated in the 1970s.
The Commission of Inquiry accused the Minister of conflict of interest given that she was a member of the Board that awarded the property to her company yet she never at one point declared it. It only took two days for the Board to grant her the property which raised more suspicion.
In a letter written to her fellow Members of Parliament, Amongi who doubles as MP for Oyam South county said it was true that her company (Amobet Investments Ltd) were offered the property by the Departed Asians’ Property Custodian Board. She however said that they acquired the property as tenants not owners buy that she was not given an opportunity to defend herself.
“it is unfortunate that the atmosphere in the Commission of Inquiry did not permit me to present the facts as they are,” the Minister wrote to MPs in the wake of widespread criticism against her for using her position to influence decisions of the Board on which she sits.
“My company does not own this property, we applied to Custodian Board and we were given the offer to pay rent to government. Currently, Custodian Board has over 500 tenants like my company,” she said.
She explained that upon receiving information that a third party was claiming the property, her company asked the Custodian Board to rescind their offer and reimburse them the sum they had paid for rent.
“A third party took Custodian Board to court contesting the tenancy offer to my Company claiming he is the owner. He obtained an injunction, my company wrote to Custodian Board seeking to rescind from the tenancy and demanding refund for the money paid in rent. Custodian Board wrote back withdrawing the offer and accepted to rescind our rent,” she said.
“It is not true that I sought to use my position as Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to acquire the property in question, the property was only offered to my company as a tenant not owner”.
Amongi’s communication to Parliament followed calls by some MPs including Aruu county MP, Odonga Otto calling for her censure.
“This House should pronounce itself through rule 84 on the conduct of the Minister who is currently keeping 2336 land titles of the departed Asians,” Otto demanded.
He demanded that the house should pick interest and “the Speaker should advise on whether we move a censure motion, take the Minister to the relevant Disciplinary Committee or institute a select committee to investigate this matter”.