KAMPALA: The Executive Director, Departed Asian Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) and chief accountant were on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, arrested in Kampala over extortion.
George William Bizibu and his accountant were arrested by the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (AntiGraft_SH) for ignoring the advice of the Attorney General and purporting to allocate properties under the DAPCB already settled by the government and courts.
“@AntiGraft_SH in liaison with @PoliceUg have arrested both the Executive Secretary & the Accountant of the departed Asian property custodian board for falsely obtaining money from various persons while purporting to allocate them properties. #ExposeTheCorrupt”, the State House Unit tweeted on Wednesday evening.
The Unit added, “It is alleged that the duo are fond of defrauding people by issuing false allocation letters & reciepts after extorting huge sums of money”.
The two officials slept in police cells on the eve of Heroes Day.
Top officials of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) have come under increasing scrutiny regarding their competence and integrity after being overruled by the Attorney General and various courts in regard to management of the properties of the departed Asians.
Weeks after the Attorney General said that the Custodian Board Divestiture Committee does not have powers to repossess, manage or allocate any property that has been dealt with by the Finance minister, there were growing questions over whether DAPCB, which was formed to take care of the properties originally owned by deported Asians, should remain operational.
In his March 22, 2022 legal opinion to President Museveni regarding management of the properties of the departed Asians, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka said: “The recommendation of the Cosase sub-committee for Departed Asians Property Custodian Board, to initiate the process for cancellation of repossession certificates acquired and any substitute titles is not capable of implementation in light of the existing case law.”
In an interview a few weeks ago, the Attorney General said: “It was very clear, the recommendations by Cosase that they were asking us to do; were not tenable under the legal regime, especially the cancellation of certificate of title.”
This was after a sub-committee of Parliament’s committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), following a two-year investigation into the operations of DAPCB, recommended that properties which were wrongly misappropriated be returned to the rightful owners. But Kiryowa says this is not legally tenable, and can lead to various law suits against the Government.
It is understood that Bizibu, whose godfather is a top minister however, ignored the AGs warning signal and purported to evict bona-fide owners and allocate some contested properties to new owners.
However, it should be remembered that past court rulings and legal opinions regarding the matter have gone against DAPCB.
For instance, on August 15, 2019, former Attorney General William Byaruhanga told the Ministry of Finance that the departed Asians’ properties had already been repossessed by the original owners and hence no need of being reallocated.
The former Permanent Secretary in the Finance Ministry, Keith Muhakanizi, had also warned against allocation of properties belonging to departed Asians.
In a March 23, 2018 letter to the executive secretary of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB), George William Bizibu, Muhakanizi warned that it is only court that can direct the cancellation of a certificate of title of such property and not the board or its members, some of whom are ministers.
“…where repossession certificate for properties under the DAPCB had been issued, only the relevant courts of law had the authority to cancel such certificates in accordance with the law. It was agreed that the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and the board must continue to respect the rule of law. Therefore any orders of court must be complied with,” Muhakanizi’s letter reads in part.
“By copy of this letter, I am duly informing Hon Ministers who are members of the Departed Asians Property custodian Board (DAPCB) and the Clerk to Parliament who has requested information to assist Members of Parliament carry out their legislative and oversight functions in this matter,” the letter adds.
Muhakanizi’s letter came on the backdrop of the Auditor General’s report that accused high ranking Government officials of having influenced certain actions and decisions of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB).
The Auditor General’s report had raised accountability queries at the Custodian Board such as theft of public funds through fictitious compensations of up to Shs1.7b, double allocation of properties, forged land titles, sale of assets without proper valuation, missing documents among other illegalities.
The February 2011 – March 2016 report of the Auditor General, John Muwanga, revealed that the Board chaired by the Finance Minister failed to maintain proper books of accounts and annual financial statements were not prepared. In the process, billions of shillings in tax payers’ money was misappropriated.
The Auditor General’s report for instance, showed that Shs50.2m cash was not banked and lacked accountability documents at the time of audit. Another Shs15.2m was receipted as cash received but could not be traced in the bank statement. Also about Shs500m was spent directly from the collection account without authority of the Board.
At the same several properties in prime areas of Kampala that are in the records of DAPCB were dubiously acquired or registered in the names of other people. The Auditor General inspected 139 properties in Jinja Municipal Council and found that the Board did appoint qualified professionals to value the properties.
There was also no complete list of tenants and properties. The Auditor General also discovered cases of duplicated allocation of properties, abandoned properties, irregular disposal of properties, arrears of ground rent and unscrupulous property managers. He says these irregularities have resulted into the loss of government properties.
While appearing before COSASE in 2019, Bizibu admitted the accountability queries when questioned by MPs. During the interface with the MPs, Bizibu who has been at the helm of the DAPCB for about four years, said the board does not have information on the current ownership of several plots despite the records indicating that they were compensated by the government.
It should be noted that DAPCB is currently battling many court cases over allegations of dubious allegations of Asians properties.
In one such case, 24 families of Asian origin accuse the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) of giving away their properties located on Plot 98-104 Kampala Road. The families accuse the DAPCB under its executive secretary, Bizibu, of re-allocating their properties to one Abdul Kasai.
However, the 24 families say the properties belonged to their relatives who were expelled by Idi Amin and that they have the land title.
The families on October 12, 2021, asked court to issue a permanent injunction on the properties after finding out they had been fraudulently reallocated to another person.
It, therefore, remains to be seen if the DAPCB is serving its purpose.
The board was established in 1973 to manage all assets left behind by the 50,000 Asians who were forced out by the late dictator Idi Amin. Under the NRM Government, departed Asians could either repossess their properties or be paid compensation provided they could prove ownership.
However, the Auditor General says top government officials and renowned businessmen had a hand in the dubious acquisition of some of the properties the Asians left behind in 1972 when they were expelled by Idi Amin.