Parliament’s ccommittee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) has quizzed Ministry of Finance officials over 15 Billion Shillings that “disappeared” from accounts belonging to the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board.
The finance officials appeared before the committee on Wednesday and they were led by minister Matia Kasaija, who is also the current chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Custodian Board. Finance Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi and Custodian board members including the Executive Secretary George William Bizibu were also present. Finance Minsitry under secretary Betty Kasimbazi who took over supervision of the Custodian Board in 2007 was a key witness in the hearing.
The sub-committee chaired by Makindye East MP Ibrahim Kasozi is investigating fraudulent acquisition of properties facilitated by government officials and the total amount of proceeds received from the sale and rent of the properties held by the board.
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 also wondered 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.
The MPs also queried why 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.