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Uganda: Basajja Shs11.5b compensation claim for UBC land goes to IGG

The compensation claim for refund of Shs11.5b by businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba for the botched sale of 23-acre piece of land belonging to the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) has been challenged before the Inspectorate of Government.

It is alleged that Mr Basajjabalaba through his Haba Group Ltd is seeking to recover Shs11.5 billion after courts of law rendered the transactions and sale agreement of the land at Bugolobi null and void.

The dispute arose from a February 2011 sale agreement between UBC and Haba Group Ltd for the 23.1-acre of land comprised in freehold volume on Farady Road at Bugolobi, Kampala.

Call for investigation
In a January 25 complaint, a whistleblower has asked the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Justice Irene Mulyagonja, to investigate ‘irregular and fraudulent manoeuvre by some government officials to refund Shs11.5 billion to Haba Group Uganda Ltd.

The complaint states that the High Court dismissed a case in which Haba Group had sued UBC and its former managing director Paul Kihika and also ordered the cancellation of the sale agreement to reinstate UBC as the registered proprietor and a decree was extracted.

“In the unanimous ruling, the Court of Appeal reviewed the ruling of the High Court and ordered that no order to UBC to refund Shs11.5 billion to Haba Group was ever made by the High Court judge and that even if it

had been made, it would have been made in error, having declared the agreement of sale of the suit property to have been illegal, null and void, court cannot sanction an illegality or be used to enforce an obligation arising out of an illegal contract,” the complaint reads in part.

When contacted, Ms Munira Ali, the public relations officer at the Inspectorate, said: “We received the compliant and it is being reviewed by the IGG for action.”

The complaint follows several correspondences in regard to payment of the disputed money after the courts of law decided.

In a January 2017 letter, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, asked the Secretary to the Treasury to expeditiously attend to the demand by Haba Group to avoid interest accumulating on the said money.

Ms Kadaga cited a petition lodged on behalf of Haba Group that sought intervention regarding failure of UBC to refund the money.

On April 6, 2018, Ms Kadaga wrote that her office continued to receive petitions on the matter yet the directive contained in the resolution (of Parliament) was clear.

Deputy AG’s opinion
In a legal opinion to the Secretary to the Treasury dated January 10, 2018, Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana said the issue of refund and or forfeiture of Shs11.5b to government by Haba Group was conclusively dealt with at the High Court where it was held on February 24, 2012, that it would be improper to allow government to be unjustly enriched.

“…it is my considered opinion that Haba Group is entitled to be refunded the full sum of Shs11.5b as was ordered by the High Court and recommended by the Rt Hon Speaker of Parliament in her letter dated April 6,2018,’ reads the opinion.

He added: “Government stands at risk of refunding the full amount in issue together with accumulated interest, damages and costs of litigation, if the refund is not made.”

But the complaint states: “…court refused to be used as an instrument to enforce the illegal transaction and having rejected the notion of a refund, is it in order for the Speaker of Parliament to resolve to refund Shs11.5b to Haba Group given the doctrine of separation of powers and independence of the Judiciary.”

The complaint alleges that the opinion of the Deputy Attorney General and that of the Speaker of Parliament create an impression as if a statutory notice has been served upon his office allegedly to recover Shs11.5b with interest.

“He is intentionally blowing the case out of proportion by creating fear to the Ministry of Finance to irregularly pay.”

By Daily Monitor

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