On Spot: Asians Custodian Board Under Probe As Over 15 Billions Go Missing From Account

Panic has engulfed the custodian board after it has emerged that Shs 15 billion was mysteriously withdrawn from the Departed Asians Property Custodian board accounts by the unknown persons.

The development came after Members of Parliament on the committee Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) discovered the missing monies and quizzed Ministry of Finance officials led by Min. Matia Kasaija and PS Keith Muhakanizi to respond to several anomalies regarding the bank accounts.

These were to respond on why over 15 Billion Shillings were missing from Bank of Uganda accounts belonging to the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board and also present were current Custodian board members including the Executive Secretary George William Bizibu.

“Cosase is going to look into the matter but they have not yet agreed whether bank of Uganda should be summoned to explain how the money ended up in Stanbic”. Says a source.

The money had been collected from the sale of about 1524 properties of the departed Indians and Kasaija is the current chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Custodian Board.

The sub-committee chaired by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi is investigating among other issues fraudulent acquisition of properties facilitated by government officials. The MPs are also investigating the total amount of proceeds received from the sale and rent of the properties held by the board.

A key witness in the hearing was finance ministry undersecretary Betty Kasimbazi who took over supervision of the Custodian Board in 2007.

Kasozi told Kasimbazi that the Divestiture committee of the custodian board was relieved of its duties in January 2006 with its final report showing a balance of 15.3 billion shillings from the sale of properties by December 2007.

Kasimbazi however disputed this figure noting that when she took over in 2007 she only inherited a total of 1.1 Billion Shillings on four different bank accounts.

MPs were curious as to why two of these collection bank accounts were held in Stanbic Bank a commercial bank despite the Board’s collection accounts being previously in the Bank of Uganda. Kasaija had told the committee that when he previously acted as a supervising officer in the late 90s the body had only one operational account and a collections account in the Central Bank.

Despite Muhakanizi pointing out that all accounts in commercial banks had been closed in 2013, Kasimbazi could not explain how the Stanbic Bank accounts had materialized or who had opened them.

Kasozi demanded accountability for the missing 15 billion shillings noting that the Custodian Boards accounts do not show any compensations that could have depleted the accounts.

More anomalies were also detected as the hearing progressed with the committee discovering that the current Custodian Board officials deposit proceeds from the rent of properties directly onto the operational account instead of the collections account in Bank of Uganda. However, Bizibu told MPs that this was the system he found in place when he was appointed in

Another irregularity in the operations of the Custodian Board was the fact that a total of 18 properties were sold in December 2017 without an unlawful board of valuers.

The custodian board is not new to scandals, last year COSASE committee was shocked after it was informed that the official seal used to authenticate documents being processed by the Departed Asians’ Properties Custodian Board (DAPCB) was missing as the former executive secretary, Mr Bernard Tumwesigire, only handed over the stamp to Parliament.

The select task force of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) was investigating the mismanaged and dubious acquisition of departed Asians’ properties had ordered Mr Tumwesigire to handover the seal and other office items.

The board under its new secretary George William Bizibu has also been under investigation by parliament for giving away land that was already repossessed by its former owners.

The committee last year heard that heard that in 2018, the custodian board gave the 200-acre land on Block 35 Plot 8 and 12 Nkoko Estate in Mukono District to businessman Tabu Egesa.

Mr Bizibu was tasked to explain how the custodian board continued to have interest on the property even after the former owners completed the repossession process.

Asians were expelled by President Idi Amin in 1972. However, those whose properties were never compensated by government in the process of 1976 were free to return and repossess them by October 1993.

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