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MPs question Shs16bn defense land compensation

Parliament's Committee on Budget has tasked the Ministry of Defense and Veteran Affairs to explain the criterion used to pay Shs16 billion to 27 claimants in land compensation.

In a Supplementary Expenditure made within the current Financial Year, the Ministry paid up the claimants whose land was taken by the Army for strategic reasons.

Article 26(2) (a) of the Constitution permits government to take possession of or acquisition of land necessary for public use or in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.

However, government has suffered court cases over delayed or problematic compensation. The Committee said it was not convinced about the choice of candidates for the compensation.

Whom exactly are you paying out of the claimants and what criterion did you apply to pay the land owners? We also don't know the size of land against the payments made, said Committee Chairperson Hon. Amos Lugoloobi (NRM, Ntenjeru North).

Over the time, the army has bought land belonging to citizens [on credit] for security reasonsthe expenditure was foreseeable but not unavoidable because we are indebted, said Defense Minister Adolf Mwesige.

The money is part of Shs451 billion spent by different agencies of government through supplementary expenditure.

The Shs16.5 billion expenditure was spent without prior approval of Parliament. Section 25(1) of the Public Finance Management Act permits government agencies to spend up to three per cent of their budget in supplementary, then seek retrospective approval by Parliament.

Section 25(2), however, tasks the spending entity to report such expenditure to the House within four months following expenditure.

Defense Ministry Permanent Secretary Ms Rosette Byengoma said the selection of beneficiaries was advised by the Chief Government Valuer.

Byengoma provided a list of beneficiaries to MPs, saying there remains a balance of Shs49 billion which, she said, will be compensated in the next three years.

MP Isiagi Opolot (NRM, Kachumbala) said the compensation is a good decision, but asked the Ministry to be cautious of fraud and financial impropriety.

Joint Chief of Staff Maj Gen Joseph Musanyufu said most of the land has been for extension of army barracks and other strategic installations.

Source: Parliament of Uganda

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