A retired senior officer in the Ministry of Lands was Tuesday tasked to explain why she approved the giveaway of government land earmarked for a cemetery in Bukasa in disregard of the law.
Catherine Mulinde Mukasa Kintu, who previously served as an Assistant Commissioner for Land Inspectorate in the Ministry of Land was further queried by the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire land probe for using her positions to facilitate the transfer of pieces of land without declaring a conflict of interest.
Catherine Mulinde, 62, now a land consultant told the commission that in November 2004, she received a batch of land applications from the Secretary Wakiso Land Board for her input as a ‘land officer’ for the district land board. The land being applied for was located in Bukasa, Kira municipality in Wakiso.
Ordinarily, a land officer’s role in this process would be to look at the applications and advise on whether the land being applied for by different individuals was available and also ascertain the tenure under which the land in question was.
Interestingly, Mulinde had also applied for 3 plots of land in the same area, which in essence meant that she was in position to approve her own application which she did.
She told the commission that she bought 3 plots (quarter an acre each) at Shs3 million from a kibanja holder. But after making the transaction, Mulinde transferred the titles into her maiden names ‘Catarina Nambilige’, a move that the commission found to be raising suspicion of her motives.
When asked by the assistant lead counsel to the commission of inquiry, John Bosco Souza as to why a Commissioner in the Ministry was playing a role of a district land officer, she claimed that at that time (2004), Wakiso district had just been created and that land matters were still new.
She said; “Most of the districts had no land officers so we used to go and render our technical services at the district level. I was the Assistant Commissioner for Land Inspectorate/Land Officer at the district.”
“I would look at the job of the land officer at the district as lower than the Assistant Commissioner at the Ministry. So, you would do work at the district, send the work to yourself at the Ministry, act on it and approve it,” the assistant lead counsel asked.
He further queried her; “You have a situation where you are a district land officer, a Commissioner Land Inspection and you are also a beneficiary of land that has come under scrutiny. Would we be wrong to conclude that you were not in this just as an officer but as part of a racket that was hell bent on grabbing this land?”
However, the witness denied this saying she bought the land with good intentions and that being a public servant didn’t deprive her of right to own land like any other citizen.
The commission presented a letter authored by Mulinde on September 19, 2005 written to the Commissioner Land Registration requesting that a freehold title be issued in respect of Plot 92 Kyadondo Block 242 at Kirinya in favor of Catarina Nambilige.
“Did you not feel there was something strange about you writing in your official capacity to other offices concerning land you purchased privately? Catherine Mulinde, a beneficiary of a certain transaction is writing to a land office requesting the land office to issue a title to Catherine Mulinde,” Souza asked.
To this, she admitted doing wrong and said; “I must admit that was a mistake.”
It is all these actions coupled with a skewed interpretation of the land laws which led to the eventual approval of public land (KCCA cemetery), that led the commission to accuse her of corruption and abuse of office. Mulinde was blamed Mulinde for failing to delegate her role in the approval process of the land applications to another officer let alone disclosing to the district land board that she had interest in the said land.
Justice Bamugemereire told the witness; “Do you think you were competent to be a land officer? We have it on good authority that this was a deliberate effort to give yourselves in a cemetery.”
Mulinde who studied land law at Makerere University shocked the commission when she gave a construed interpretation of what public land is. In her explanation, she said that all land that was formerly public land became customary afyer the 1995 constitution including the said cemetery.
“You, a whole Commissioner, you allocate yourself land in total disregard of what the law says. And you purport to give it to yourself in your maiden name. People like yourself are the reason the Ministry of Lands is in tatters today. Your type of interpretation of the law, given to district land boards is the reason is why we have people are encroaching on forests and wetlands,” Justice Bamugemereire lashed out at the retired civil servant.
Mulinde said that she was not aware during the transaction that, she was allocating the land to herself.
The land tenure is a matter of law not tales. Where did you derive this interpretation?
Failed to clearly indicate who defined this interpretation