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State House Anti-Corruption Unit in the eye of a storm in Lira City land investigations 

(Last Updated On: 20 August 2022)

“The State House Anticorruption Unit could be doing a great job but to me they are behaving like hunter who is busy chasing after squirrels yet there are bigger animals in the jungle,” said an activist on condition of anonymity.


Editorial: This is a long read, kindly get a glass of water or juice and sip while you enjoy!


By Frank Oyugi

Lira City, August 20, 2022: About a month ago, the State House Anti-Corruption Unit caused a stampede and a pandemonium at Lira City Council hall leading to an “uncoordinated movement of troops” among civil servants most of whom scampered for their dear lives in fear of arrests over alleged “fraudulent” land related cases and abuse of office among others.

“As the state house anti-corruption unit, we have received numerous complaints on some individual officers in Lira city and we have here to cause investigations, however, most of them are not in the office and have switched off their known phone numbers, but they can’t run forever and we are giving them only two weeks to report to us in Kampala and have their statements recorded,” this was some of the words from Samuel Arinaitwe, the head of the legal team and a lead investigator at the State House Anticorruption Unit.

It should be recalled that initially, the mother Lira district was the most endemic of perennial complaints and allegations of fraudulent dealings on public land for the last ten years. 

Precisely, there have been complaints that the local authorities have cunningly sold off public land for monetary gains, a complex equation whose answer has never been sought.

Lira district has been accused most notably for dealing in some plots in the former Ireda Housing Estate and another vast chunk of land which partly houses the Regional headquarters of North Kioga Police. 

Away from that, it should be noted that Uganda has a fully-fledged inspectorate created by the government to curb corruption and it’s headed by the Inspector General of Government [IGG]. But despite the existence of this gigantic arm of the government, the country has continued to grapple with this vice of graft and it is projected that Uganda loses close to a trillion shillings annually as a result of graft. 

Perhaps this is a major factor that could have instigated President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to institute another independent body within the state house to directly deal with issues of corruption and abuse of public offices which was initially headed by Col Edith Nakalema.

Now in this piece, a month after the State House Anticorruption Unit descended on Lira City Council to investigate land-related cases, TND News Frank Oyugi and a team from the investigative research bureau of this might digital newspaper landed on a raft of documents, punches holes into some of the gaps in the investigations caused by the State House Anticorruption Unit and further probes if the unit is professionally executing and discharging her duties with due diligence.

It all begins with a “protest” letter read as a petition authored by a senior and renowned lawyer Dr Adams Makmot Kibwanga who is acting on behalf of Lira City deputy town clerk Patrick Ogweng. 

Mr Ogweng is among the senior civil servants being investigated by SHACU and the petition is addressed to the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP].

Titled “Complaint on Harassment on Mr. Ogweng Patrick by Investigators from State House Anti-corruption Unit,” Mamkmot’s petition to the DPP reads in part as follows:

“(C) SHACU is harassing our client for allegedly clearing the allocation of land which was already allocated as early as 2003 when our client was not yet working at the City Council. What is known as mayor’s Garden Plot 2 Isaza Ogwang Guzi road already exists in the names of one Beja Charles with a running lease of up to 49 years from 2003 and therefore to say our client authorized the allocation of the same land to one Olet Patrick in 2018 amounts to legal harassment. Plot 2 Isaya Ogwanguzi road has been leased for almost 20 years and it is not in the name of Lira Municipal council ( now city council” Marmot’s letter reads in part.”

It is upon this background that TND News picked interest and started combing public offices for documents to ascertain the authenticity of the allegations being investigated by the State House Anticorruption Unit and also to validate the issues raised by Ogweng’s lawyer.

The fault lines

Firstly, this publication’s attention was drawn to a red flag raised by counsel Makmot Kibwanga in his petition that SHACU was investigating Mr Patrick Ogweng over a letter he purportedly wrote directing the secretary of the Lira district land board to process the said land to Patrick Olet, a prominent businessman in Lira City.

“Whilst investigating Plot 2 Isaza Ogwanguzi road, Lira also known as Mayor’s Garden, SHACU questioned our client on an uncertified photocopy of a letter dated 30th April, 2018……..”

TND News has since obtained a copy of the said letter labelled Ref: CR/124/19 and addressed to the secretary of the district land board and bears the signature of the deputy town clerk and the culprit here would be Patrick Ogweng.

But According to Dr Makmot Kibwanga, this letter was not authored by his client and although TND News could not independently verify this, other signatures on other documents signed by Patrick Ogweng differ from this particular one.

To further punch more holes, we also established that instead of getting a certified copy of this letter in contention from the author or the addressee (Secretary District Land Board), the investigating authority instead opted to contact the Lira Zonal Land office. 

In the said letter under contestation and now known to have been forged, part of it reads: “This letter serves to inform you that the above matter was presented in the physical planning committee meeting held on 05 April 2018 under minute No. LMC004/04/2018 and the committee approved the application and resolved that a freehold title be granted on the following terms……”

Another forged letter obtained by this publication which is bearing the stamp labelled “For Town Clerk Lira Municipal Council” signed on 29th June 2018 but bears no name is addressed to the Secretary of Lira district land board and its content is not any different from the one of April 30, 2018, pushing for an offer of a freehold title to one Olet Patrick.

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This publication has further gotten access to two letters written by the deputy town clerk Patrick Ogweng the first letter was authored on 5th May 2022 titled status of Isaza Ogwanguzi road. 

“It has come to my knowledge that Plot 2 Isaza Ogwanguzi road located at the current mayor’s garden has a running lease of 49 years in the names of Beja Charles,” Ogweng wrote adding that “ No record of such allocations/lease is available at the central Registry and the council seems not to be aware.

In this letter stamped as received by the Resident City Commissioner Lawrence Emmy Egole on May 9, 2022, Mr Ogweng also indicated that to the best of his knowledge, a 49 years lease is only given on an already developed plot/piece of land and there is no evidence as such on any part of mayor’s garden and he asked the city planner to whom the letter was addressed to prepare a status report on the said plot.

When TND News reached out to him about why he authored this letter, Mr Ogweng said he didn’t want to say much since the matter is still under investigation but briefly answered that it could also be true that the past governments or councils had genuinely allocated this land to Beja Charles and his letter only seeks to do due diligence and ascertain the truth since in 2003 he wasn’t yet a staff of Lira municipal council, now a city.

Another letter which this publication has in custody dated April 22, 2022, authored by Patrick Ogweng and addressed to the secretary land board which acknowledged receipt on 26th May 2022.

In this letter, Ogweng wrote “It has come to my knowledge that your office issued documents to facilitate processing a lease in the names of Olet Patrick in respect of the above Plot 2 Isaza Ogwanguzi road at the current Mayor’s Garden on the basis of Lira Municipal council physical planning committee minute No. LMC PPC004/04/2018 of a meeting held on 05 April purportedly signed by me on behalf of the controlling authority Lira municipal council.” 

According to the letter, Mr Ogweng says “the purported letter communicating Lira municipal council planning committee decision above was not signed by him and there is no record of a physical planning committee meeting held on the stated date adding that Mayor’s Garden is a public land under the custody of Lira Municipality/City Council and anything which affects the status of the land must be in the knowledge of and with the blessing of council. I wish to inform you that there is no such record of such with Lira municipal/City council.”

His position is further corroborated by another letter which copy this digital newspaper has been privy. This letter dated 27th July 2021 was written by Phillip Ogwal, the acting senior land management officer and addressed to the commissioner of surveys and mapping department Lira ministry zonal office located on plot 2, Hotel Link, senior quarters.

The letter reads “This is to request your office to issue an instruction to survey ( IS ) to Ms ALPHA Surveyors LTD and also to authorize the processing of certified deed plan for the above mentioned land for purposes of acquisition of a freehold title.”

It further states that the application was duly approved by Lira District Land Board with the Recommendation of the Area Land Committee of the Central Division under Lira District minute No.77 (270/0) of 21st June 2021.

Lira District Local Government speaks

In all these processes, it should be noted that the Lira district Land board has been at the centre and this publication was able to gain access to a letter written by Bonny Omara, the district Vice chairperson Lira district local government and addressed to the State House Anticorruption Unit and copied to other relevant government authorities.

Below is a relevant extract from the eight-page letter authored by Boniface Omara which indicates that the process of leasing the said plot of Land in contention was not based on any meeting of the Lira City Physical planning committee but rather on the area land committee of the then Lira Central Division, a shot in the foot of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit who have put the city council workers on their toes basing on unverified documents.

“2. Alleged allocation of Mayor’s Garden to Mr. Olet Patrick. Some Lira City leaders contend that Mr. Olet Patrick was illegally allocated part of Mayors Garden by the District Land Board. The District Land Board agrees that they approved a grant of Freehold to one Olet Patrick for a plot on Isaya Ogwang Guzi Road but outside the mayors’ garden; We have the following questions that the investigating team could explain to you to enable you to determine whether the case has merit. 4 Page 4, i.e., who owns the land in question? Did the investigators get any ownership document as evidence to show that the said land belongs to Lira City or Lira Municipal Council? ii. Did they find documents regarding boundaries of Mayor’s Garden which are clear in the Ministry of Lands Management Information system? If they found out, is the said land part of plot 4-26 Isaya Ogwang guzi Road and if it is not inside, why do they insist the said Land is in Mayor’s Garden? iii. Did they get access to the inventory of Lands owned by Lira City which was submitted to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development by the Town Clerk Lira City see attached annex 2. If they got it, what does it show as boundaries of the Mayor’s garden? If it starts from plot 4 to 26 Isaya Ogwang Guzi Road how then can a piece of land after Plot 2 Isaya Ogwang guzi Road be in Mayor’s garden? iv. Are they aware that Lira Municipal Council acquired Mayor’s Garden out of a grant of Freehold by the same Lira District Land Board and their Physical Planning Committee approval showed they requested for plot 4-26 Isaya Ogwang Guzi Road. See attached annex 3 minutes of the physical planning minutes from Lira City physical planning committee and lay out of the land. If the same was discovered by your investigating team, what vested interest do they have on the District Land Board or Mr. Olet Patrick? v. There is a claim by Lira City leaders of the lease offer given to Mr. Olet Patrick was not advertised. What happens when the area land committee makes public notice calling for application? Did they consider provisions of section 10 of the Land Act 1998 as amended regarding requirements for application for grant of Freehold by the District Land Board? vi. Did the application of one Olet Patrick comply with section 10 of the Land Act1998 and did the Land Board approval comply with section 13 of the Land Act 1998 as amended? What then makes the transaction fraudulent? vii. If Lira Municipal Council and Lira City Council have no documentary evidence of ownership for the said plot granted by the board and Lira District Land Board acted within provisions of section 59 (1) (a) and (b) of the Land Act 1998, what makes its actions illegal considering that Lira City was not yet functional by law and had no Land Board in place by the time of approval?”

A fortnight ago while appearing on Wimeja (On the Table), a morning talkback show hosted by Elvis Ajwika on Voice of Lango FM, Samuel Arinaitwe said they were perusing through the files they picked from Lira city, adding that soon they would be through with investigations and come out with the names of the culpable officers. He further admitted that they have in their custody the land title of the plot in question.

Meanwhile, our efforts to ascertain SCHACU on the validity and authenticity of documents which the team is basing on for investigations were fruitless as our repeated calls went unanswered.

On the other hand, a human rights and anti-corruption activist in Lira who requested anonymity told this publication that it is counterproductive for the Unit to concentrate on local governments which have meagre resources and turn a blind eye to the massive abuse of public resources at the centre.

“The State House Anticorruption Unit could be doing a great job but to me they are behaving like hunter who is busy chasing after squirrels yet there are bigger animals in the jungle,” he said.

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