Jinja city mayor spits fire as masese garbage saga reaches the apex

(Last Updated On: 12 September 2022)

…Tumusime through his company called M/S God Will Agencies, armed with the title and now demands that the Jinja City Council authorities hand over the property to him. 

 By Nelly Otto

Jinja – Sept. 12, 2022: Mayor Rio Alton Peter Kasolo Okocha has warned fellow politicians and civil servants who are conniving with some individuals to grab public land in the city that they will be exposed.

 Kasolo’s warning follows widespread public outcry that most officials at the City Hall have become more of predators than agents of change and service delivery that the residents want.

 The NUP politician admits that his City Hall could indeed be having some politicians who connive with their counterparts in the technical wing to engage in illicit activities.

 Commentators have described them as pure dealers not leaders some of the politicians and civil servants use flowery language at the City Hall which has been reduced to a mere kiosk where personal deals are ignited in the name of fighting for the residents.

 Apart from the recent shocking disappearance of the multi-purpose bulldozer also known as dozer from the Council Yard in Walukuba by yet-to-be-identified officials, Jinja is reputedly the headquarters of land and property scandals probably comparable only to Kampala and Wakisodistricts.

 He singled out a 7-acre land currently being used as a garbage-dumping ground in Masese II and II Wards, Walukuba in Southern Division East which has generated heated debate from the community.

 The contentious land situated on Plot M 23 Aniyali Amanyi road in the densely populated residential area has for years been used as a modern solid waste composite management facility and landfill.

 Reports indicate that a secret deal crafted way back in 2018 by a handful of money-thirsty councillors together with their technical counterparts gave away the land to city businessman Isaac Tumusiime who owns Garden Hotel adjacent to the Source of the Nile Agriculture Show Grounds.

 Kasolo whose relationship with former speaker Bizitu was short-lived now maintains that the land will not go anywhere saying Tumusiime can keep his ill-gotten title.

 The matter was birthed during the administration of Mayor Majid Batambuze in a council meeting held on Tuesday 18 December 2018 chaired by Moses Molson Bizitu.

 The motion which led to the purported swap deal was moved by George Henry Izaale who was the councillor representing Mpumudde Parish in the then JMC.

Izaale reasoned that in most cities they have visited, landfills are structured far away from the city centres hence Jinja should simply borrow a leaf and relocate the garbage pit away. 

This was seconded by councillor Joel Onen who argued that the Masese landfill was environmentally dangerous to the population since it was in the middle of a residential area.

Bizitu, whose reign as speaker was riddled with numerous scandals, put the matter to vote and the already influenced councillors unanimously passed the resolution which culminated in the infamous giveaway deal.

“…having had a lengthy discussion over the matter, the speaker requested the members to vote and the nays took it and the proposal was passed in favour of relocation subject to technical rules and procedures…,” reads part of minutes marked as CL/JMC/95/2018.

 The resolutions seemed to have boosted the morale of Bizitu and Waidhuba who quickly signed a Memorandum of Understanding (Mo) with Tumusiime’s God Will Agencies Ltd to swap the land.

 In the swap arrangement, Tumusiime through his company M/S Goodwill Agencies Ltd was to get another land outside the city and put in adequate facilities.

 Many analysts have questioned the justification of swapping a rural-based 4 acres of land at Musiima Village, Mafubira in Jinja North against 7 acres in the prime location in the city Centre.

 Above all, the issue of swapping government properties and assets is an alien subject in any of the laws of statutory instruments, meaning the Tumusiime deal was simply hot air.

 The latest information reveals that Tumusime through his company called M/S God Will Agencies, armed with the title and now demands that the Jinja City Council authorities hand over the property to him. 

In his letter dated 5 August, 2022, Tumusiime, in his capacity as Director of God Will Agencies Ltd said he got the land in a swap deal with JCC and now wants to develop the same. 

However, the Jinja City Clerk Moses Lorika has challenged Tumusime to provide proof that he acquired the land using legal means before any further step can be taken.

 “…as a new office bearer, I ask you to share with my office the following documents if they are in your possession so that Council can make an informed decision…” reads part of Lorika’s letter.

 The tricky letter which puts Tumusiime in a very vulnerable position was dated 8 August 2022 and the documents being asked include a swap agreement with Jinja City or Jinja Municipality on the said transaction, a Valuation Report of the two pieces of land to establish the market values, authorization from the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance and Parliament as per section 34(6) (7) of the Public Finance Management Act.

Lorika also asked Tumusime to furnish his office with evidence on whether the public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) procedures were followed, that is procurement references, award letters, contract agreement and Solicitors clearance).

This is in tandem with a similar letter generated by Ambrose Ocen, former City Clerk who on July 13, 2020, sought guidance from then Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga on how to manoeuvre through the issue. 

In response, Kadaga said government properties like land are not just casually given away and that it was a risky business for both parties unless all legal procedures were followed to their logical conclusion.

“…I wish to caution you against taking any further action regarding the transaction without first obtaining the required authorization of the Secretary to the Treasury and parliament…,” warns Kadaga.

Quoting sections 34(6) & (7) of the Public Finance Management Act, Kadaga asks Ocen to exhaust all relevant legal avenues which will subsequently be decided upon by parliament.

 Ocen who was under a lot of pressure from the City Hall quickly took the speaker’s advice and wrote to the Secretary to the Treasury (PS Finance Ministry) seeking further guidance. 

“…this is to request for your authorization as per Section 34(7) of the Public Finance Management Act 2015 (as amended) to allow Jinja City to exchange the present landfill…” reads part of the letter. 

The City Clerk in his letter dated 27 July 2020 assures the PS that all other procedures have been fully followed jointly with both the political and technical wings of the council.

According to the information available, Jinja generates more than 300 tons of garbage, mostly biodegradable every day and is expected to rise with the new city status going to attract more people with increased activities.

Ocen who came under a lot of pressure from some money-thirsty officials at City Hall wrote to the Secretary to the Treasury (PS Finance Ministry) seeking further guidance. 

In response to the TCs letter, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development told the Jinja officials not to indulge in illegalities that can land them in jail.

“…you should note that swapping of government assets is not provided for under the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) 2015 and the PPDA (2003) …” reads in part a letter by the then Finance Ministry’s Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakaniza.

Section 34 sub section 6 & 7 of the PFMA states that an accounting officer (City Clerk) shall not pledge or otherwise encumber the land or any other asset of a Vote without the permission of Parliament.

It also adds that where a vote requires to acquire an asset by lease or hire purchase or to acquire a used asset, the Accounting Officer shall, before acquiring the asset by lease…obtain authorization of the Secretary to the Treasury.

Muhakaniza in his September 7 letter drew the attention of the City Clerk to the need to separate the two transactions in line with relevant legal provisions and regulations to avoid the boomerang of reckless actions.

The PS specifically highlighted disposal of landfill should be per section 127 of Local Government (PPDA) Regulations, 2006 and section 34 of the PFMA (2015) adding that acquisition of land is stipulated in the PPDA Act, 2003 and PPDA Regulations, 2014.

This in simple terms means the Council has to advertise the sale of the Masese land whose value is estimated at more than 2BN while at the same time inviting people with land outside the city to show interest.

This will also put Tumusiime and his allies at a terrible risk as many potential developers could show up with more attractive bids likely to kick his hurriedly-built facility at Musima Village, Mafubira Sub County out of the multi-billion deals. 

Heads are expected to roll tomorrow Monday at Kakindu Complex offices where the Jinja RCC Darius Nandinda has called a meeting of key stakeholders to discuss the stingy kasasiro land saga.

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