Lands Minister Betty Amongi has revealed that government is set to avail funds required by the commission of inquiry into land matters in the first quarter of the 2017/18 fiscal year.
The probe which is led by Justice Catherine Bamigemereire announced two weeks ago that it would suspend its public hearings due to inadequate funds just 9 weeks into its work.
The seven person committee was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni in December 2016 and given six months to investigate into the effectiveness of land law as well as processes of land registration, management and administration.
But Justice Bamugemereire told journalists at a press briefing that financial constraints had made it difficult for the commission to proceed with its normal work.
She revealed that for it to conduct hearings, the commission had to facilitate witnesses with transport and meals as well as its investigators to deliver summons.
“The commission will go on a technical break until the funds are provided to enable the resumption of our work. We shall notify the public on when we shall resume,” Bamugemereire revealed.
ChimpReports understands that initially the team had requested for Shs17 billion in order to execute its work to the end but the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi considered the figure rather outrageous.
For a week now, Commissioners have resorted to desktop functions in order to cut down costs.
Bamugemereire was t however hesitan to disclose what amount was required. Nevertheless, she said the technical break would not affect the six month deadline that the commission has to hand in a preliminary report on its findings.
While addressing a news conference on Tuesday, Minister Amongi reiterated government’s commitment to facilitate the work of the commission cognizant of the problems that the land sector is faced with.
“The commission of inquiry was appointed by the President with full knowledge its function and of the problem at hand. Cabinet approved its work,” the Lands Minister said.
“However, as you know, government operates on a budget of a financial year and it must be approved, however the commission of inquiry began in the middle of the financial year. We had to look for a supplementary budget for it to start which is why it delayed.”
She however noted that the Ministry of Finance has agreed to release funds for the commission in the first quarter of this financial year.
“So, I want to assure the public that the commission of inquiry will be facilitated, there’s no crisis and they will continue their work,” she said.
“The President and the Cabinet are very happy with the work of the commission and that they will support its work.”
Amongi clarified that the commission’s work is not at a standstill but that the assessment of petitions is still ongoing.
So far, the commission has received over 1,500 land related complaints and heard testimonies from over 150 witnesses including government officials, representatives from cultural institutions, affected persons, land lords and those accused of land grabbing.