Nine weeks into its work, the commssion of inquiry into land matters has Thursday announced that it will be taking a technical break due to lack of funds required to execute its functions normally.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire who is leading the inquiry told the press that effective Sunday, the commission will embark on the break until the relevant government bodies have availed funds.
“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.
“For the commission to run, we pay for witnesses’ food, transport, look after them and a lot more activities that happen behind the scenes. We can’t continue hearings when we can’t send out summons because we literally send people to the villages to deliver summons which is costly,” she said.
As a result of this financial pinch, some of the support staff to the commission have been asked to stay home for now.
“We send out investigators to every part of districts that we have been to. And all this is done using commission fuel and commission money. Ideally, if we had funds, we would have officers in each region but we can’t do that right now.”
It is for this reason that Bamugemereire said they will now resort to a desktop mode of work that won’t attract costly expenditure.
Bamugemereire was hesitant to disclose how much money the commission has spent in its 9 weeks so far or the specific amount required to continue its work.
“I hope that funds will be availed by the third week of July. We have correspondences with the Ministry of Lands and Ministry of Finance explaining why the commission needs funds,” she added.
However, the commission will keep its diaries open to receive complaints from the public in order to immediately resume from where it stopped once funds are availed.
So far, a total of 150 witnesses have given testimony to the commission while over 1,500 land related complaints have been received from the public.
As to whether the sudden break won’t affect the 6 month deadline (August) given to the commission by President Yoweri Museveni, Bamugemereire said; “I believe we will meet the deadline. We may extend our preliminary report by two or so weeks but by law, the commission still has to wind up at the end of 6 months.”
The commission has appealed to members of the public with information on activities of impugned officers in the Ministry of Land to come forward in confidence and provide information on illegal actions and their wealth.
The commission of inquiry was appointed by Museveni in December last year to investigate into the effectiveness of land law, processes of land acquisition, management and land registration.
Other members of the seven person committee include Dr. Rose Nakayi, Fred Ruhindi, Robert Ssebunya, Joyce Habasa, Mary Odura Ochan and George Bagonza.
It is expected to hand a preliminary report on its findings to the President by August this year.