Park management. The controversy surrounding the management of Kampala’s recreational parks seems far from over as new details show how private investors continue to wield control of the facilities by denying city residents the opportunity to enjoy their recreational purposes writes Amos Ngwomoya.
Although all city recreational parks are supposed to be managed by the city authority on behalf of the people, Sunday Monitor has learnt that the public’s control over the facilities remain a wild-goose chase.
During one of the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) council meetings at City Hall in October, there was a heated debate on the same, with city political leaders questioning the technical team about the manner in which these facilities are given out.
The meeting resolved that instead of losing the facilities to private investors yet their revenue to KCCA is not worth the value of the land on which their businesses are, all recreational parks should be reverted to the institution and be utilised to serve their purpose.
The debate was triggered by clashes between KCCA and Nalongo estates over Centenary Park in July, where the latter deliberately refused to surrender the facility to the former despite expiry of their 10-year contract.
This newspaper understands that the committee on physical planning headed by Mr Abubaker Kawalya is currently probing the stalemate that has since plagued the management of the facilities.
Currently, the recreational parks under KCCA’s jurisdiction include, Centenary Park, Jubilee Gardens (Sheraton gardens), City Hall Gardens, Constitutional Square, Railway Grounds, Kiswa Children’s Park, Chogm Grounds at Parliament, Nakawa Business park and Kamwokya children’s park.
Recreational parks usually contain campgrounds, modern facilities, picnic areas, and other utilities used in modern recreational camping.
A letter from the then IGG, Faith Mwondha seen by this newspaper shows that although KCCA had earlier on been advised by government to recover the parks that are in the hands of the private investors, they have instead gone ahead to give away some parks.
This has raised queries from both residents and leaders over the future of the facilities.
The facilities that are currently in the eye of the storm are Kiswa Park, Centenary Park, Jubilee Gardens (Sheraton gardens) and Children’s Park on Kira Road.
Saturday Monitor has further learnt that the KCCA public accounts committee (PAC) has commenced investigations into the controversial give away of Kampala’s recreational parks.
KAMWOKYA CHILDRENS PARK
The KCCA public accounts committee (Pac) report for the period February to September 2017, which was released on December 1 states that although the then KCC leased out Plot 9B on Kira Road to Formar (U) Ltd, they ended up encroaching on the children’s park on Plot 9A by 77 decimals.
Formar (U) Ltd was supposed construct a fuel station on Plot 9B while Plot 9A would be reserved as a children’s park.
On 7 October 2014, KCCA management executive committee resolved that Formar (U) Ltd should apply for a fresh lease for Plots 9A and 9B for breaching the terms of the initial lease, a resolution the latter accepted.
However, the report further stated that there is controversy surrounding the park hence it could end up being grabbed if KCCA doesn’t take action.
KCCA speaks out
Peter Kaujju, the KCCA spokesperson told Saturday Monitor in an interview on Friday that they have since moved to recover all Kampala recreational parks.
“It’s very unfortunate that by the time KCCA came in place, we found when majority of the recreational parks had been taken over but we have now started recovering them because they are our only public places in the city,” he said.
Although Mr Kaujju says they have recovered the Jubilee Gardens (Sheraton gardens) and that KCCA has the capacity to manage all the city recreational facilities.
People can only be allowed to access them when they officially write to them (Sheraton) for permission to use them. This means that the gardens can’t be freely accessed by the public in the manner a recreational park ought to be.
Asked about the Constitution Square, he said that police requested them to keep off the public because they could disrupt court business.
But he explained that for City Hall Gardens and Railway Grounds, management rents them out to those who have big events like weddings and other meetings.
He couldn’t however reveal the amount of revenue which the institution has lost in the protracted battles with the private investors over management of some city recreational parks.
Mr Erias Lukwago argues that if KCCA cannot directly control the city parks, then they should be given out to contractors through the PPDA procedures so that terms and conditions of their maintenance are clearly spelt out.
On May 16, 2006, the then KCC awarded a 10-year contract to Nalongo Estates to manage and transform Centenary Park into a modern recreational centre.
The contract was for plots 34E-38E on Jinja Road.
Nalongo Estates was told not to erect structures without the consent of KCC. Ms Kizito submitted all the construction plans, which KCC approved.
On May 4, 2011, the Kampala District Contracts Committee also granted Nalongo Estates a separate five-year sublease for plots 96A-100A on Kitante Road and Plot 5 Park Link. The sublease was to be extended to 49 years upon the lapse of the five years.
On September 27, 2012, KCCA evicted tenants for allegedly breaching the initial contract by erecting permanent structures.
Nalongo Estates sued KCCA for alleged illegal eviction and won the case.
During the protracted battles in court, both KCCA’s five-year sublease and the 10-year management contract to Nalongo Estates expired on May 4, 2016.
On November 30, 2016, KCCA Director of Legal Affairs Mr Mike Okua wrote to Nalongo Estates reminding them of the expiry of their contract.
Recently, there was a clash between KCCA and Nalongo Estates as the former sought to recover the facility.
However, the President intervened and asked KCCA to grant a temporary lease to Nalongo Estates.
For now, KCCA’s effort to recover the facility has been in vain. The facility is now used for commercial purposes instead of recreational purposes.
Ms Sarah Kizito, the proprietor of Nalongo Estates said she is occupying the facility legally. She accuses KCCA of ‘frustrating’ her business.
Kiswa children’s Park (Nakawa division)
This park sits on 0.245 Hectares of land on Plot 17A Bunyonyi Drive in Kiswa-Bugolobi.
On March 15, 2006, Kampala District Land Board (KDLB) gave a five- year initial lease to Kashari-Buhweju Farmers Ltd. After five years, the lease would be extended to 49 years.
According to documents, Kashari-Buhweju Farmers Ltd would pay a premium of Shs10m to the then Kampala City Council (KCC) in Nakawa division and ground rent of Shs200,000 per annum to KDLB but this would be revisable every year.
However, area residents raised a red flag over the transaction on grounds that the lease was fraudulently offered to Kashari-Buhweju Farmers Ltd.
The residents also argued that the local council recommendations to lease out the land to Kashari-Buhweju Farmers Ltd had been forged by the technocrats at the division.
Luckily for the residents, they successfully petitioned the then Inspectorate General of Government (IGG), Justice Faith Mwondha in 2009.
They wanted the IGG to compel KCC to recover the controversially leased out land because it was a children’s park.
On May 5 2009, Justice Mwondha wrote to the then KCC Town Clerk, Ms Ruth Kijjambu.
“…in line with the rescission of the lease, and the irregularities and fraudulent misrepresentations listed above, the Registrar of Titles is directed to cancel the certificate granted to Kashari-Buhweju Farmers Ltd,” she wrote.
Justice Mwondha also directed that after cancellation of the lease, KCC should redevelop the contested land into a children’s park.
In 2011, Kashari-Buhweju Farmers Ltd applied for the extension of their lease but Ms Sarah Kusiima, the then KDLB Secretary informed them that it was impossible because the IGG had asked them to cancel their initial lease.
Despite the IGG’s query of the initial lease and recommendation that the authority redevelops the contested land into a children’s park, Mr Moses Atwine, the now KCCA director of physical planning gave out the same to Giga Reality Association Ltd on February 3, 2016.
According to Mr Atwine’s letter, Giga Reality Association Ltd would construct a chain link fence for a period of one year.
But this reporter has further learnt that residents have blocked Giga Reality Association Ltd from commencing work. They accuse KCCA of defying the IGG’s directive by giving away the same land to another investor.
Efforts to speak to KCCA’s director of physical planning, Mr Atwine were futile as he did not pick our calls.