- As the public anxiously awaits the Bamugemereire Land Commission inquiry findings, amid its recent extravagant request for additional government funds, some people say perhaps the land commission is now sending out a message to the once untouchable elite that ultimately with land corruption allegation, you will have to sit alone, accountable and answerable to an inquiry before the public without the protection of the appointing authority.
Recently the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms Betty Amongi, was grilled by the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, a Court of Appeal judge.
The seven-member commission is tasked with responsibility of conducting inquiries into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land acquisition, land management and land registration.
Ms Amongi faced the commission to explain her alleged involvement in abuse of office, grabbing various rental properties for personal gain and illegally operating the land fund without an official land fund bank account.
Amongi is accused of conflict of interest in regard to the alleged fraudulent acquisition of property under the management of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board in Kampala by her company Amobet Investments Ltd.
She is accused of using her position as a minister and a member of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board to frequently acquire property.
In effect the minister is accused of serious dishonesty and political corruption.
She allegedly acted as a property broker, acquiring government properties through her company and managing the properties, including a house in Kololo an upscale prime real estate area close to the central business district, paying minimal rent to government in shillings while the property’s monthly rental value is in thousands of US dollars.
These serious allegations against Amongi, who is also the Oyam South Member of Parliament, casts her ministry in bad light as being compromised, dishonest and lacking integrity.
The implication of the allegations could be far reaching beyond just broken public trust. It could damage the public confidence in the appointing authority.
The Ugandan Leadership Code Act 2002, Section 8, which the Lands minister Amongi was instructed to read out before the commission, states: “A leader shall not put himself or herself in a position in which their personal interest conflicts with their duties, responsibilities. Conflict of interest shall be taken to arise where a leader deals with a matter in which they have personal interest, where they are in a position to influence the matter, directly or indirectly, in the course of their official capacity, thereby compromising public trust.”
According to Australian Former Chief Justice Gerard Brennan, the old age principle of public trust dates back 100 years.
The proposition that “public office is a public trust” was regularly used in public discussion of government and parliamentarians’ actions. It is not a metaphor, it is an important fundamental ethical principle and a principle of the common law worldwide.
The World Bank stresses that there is need for political scientists and international observers to look beyond the visible signs of compromised public trust since political corruption occurs in broader setting, “seeing corruption in relation to the legitimacy of the state, and the patterns of political power since corruption may be a manifestation of the way political power is contested, exercised and more importantly the allocation of state wealth meant to service political agendas, rewarding supporters and managing ethnic diversity”.
In a special way it cautions against political ministerial appointments since it may no longer be dependent on proven leadership qualities, honesty, and demonstrable public service characteristics.
Instead political appointment maybe based on geographical anticipated rewards, a power structure that maybe encouraging corruption.
As the public anxiously awaits the Bamugemereire Land Commission inquiry findings, amid its recent extravagant request for additional government funds, some people say perhaps the land commission is now sending out a message to the once untouchable elite that ultimately with land corruption allegation, you will have to sit alone, accountable and answerable to an inquiry before the public without the protection of the appointing authority.