Attorney General Trims Departed Asians Property Custodian Board’s Powers

Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka has guided that the Departed Asians’ Property Custodians Board (DAPCB) has no power to deal with any property for which the Finance Minister has issued a certificate of repossession.

In a March 11 letter to the Finance Minister Matia Kasaija in the wake of the debate that has been on-going regarding the manner in which some assets have been managed by the DAPCB and considering the numerous cases filed against the government in the same matter, Kiwanuka also advised that the custodian board divesture committee also does not have powers to repossess, manage or allocate any property that has been dealt with by the Minister.

“Once the Finance Minister has dealt with an expropriated property by issuing a repossession certificate (letter of repossession), a certificate of purchase or a receipt, he or she has no power under the Act to cancel the certificate that was issued,” Kiwanuka’s letter reads in part.

Kiwanuka said he had been directed by President Museveni to render the legal opinion to government.  Museveni had earlier warned against grabbing Indian property managed under the DAPCB saying fraudsters will face serious consequences.

In his guidance, Kiwanuka said that even if there was an error on the part of the government, the minister cannot cancel a certificate of repossession. He added that the power to cancel a certificate of repossession is exclusively vested in the High Court.

Kiwanuka noted that any person who is aggrieved by any decision made by the minister under the Act may within 30 days from the date of communication of the decision to him or her appeal to the High Court against the decision. However, the time to do this has expired for many of the cases reported.

Kiwanuka gave a historical perspective noting that in August 2016, the Auditor General conducted two special audits on the operations of DAPCB from February 1, 2011 to March 31, 2016 and April 1, 2018 to March 2017 that were submitted to Parliament and examined by the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).

Kiryowa noted that COSASE recommended that “DAPCB should initiate the process for the cancellation of certain reposition certificates previously issued by the Finance Ministry and any subtitles issued contrary to the opinion of the then Attorney General (Bart Katureebe) in his letter to the minister of state or finance dated June 9, 1997. The same recommendation was adopted by Parliament.

Kiryowa however noted that although the findings of COSASE were similar to those contained in the AG’s reports, the recommendation of COSASE that DAPCB initiates the cancellation of certain repossession certificates is legally untenable as this would lead to numerous law suits that would cause substantial loss to government.

Kiryowa noted that Section 9 of the Expropriated Properties Act gives the minister powers to repossess, sell or dispose of the property for failure by the former owner to return to Uganda within 120 days, but if the minister has issued a certificate of repossession, he has no power to cancel it.

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