AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka

The Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka has issued fresh guidelines on how the Finance Ministry together with the Departed Asians’ Property Custodians Board (DAPCB) should handle assets that belonged to the Asian community.

Kiwanuka said DAPCB has no power to deal with any property for which the finance minister, Matia Kasaija has issued a certificate of repossession. The custodian board divestiture 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.”

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

He also noted that any person who is aggrieved by any decision made by the minster 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. Needless to say, the time to do this has expired for many of the cases reported.

Kiwanuka noted that he had written his letter dated Mach 11, 2022 to the finance minister in the wake of the debate that has taken place within the government and among others regarding the manner in which the captioned assets have been managed by the DAPCB and considering the numerous cases filed against the Government in relation to the same matter. He said he had been directed by president Museveni to render this opinion to government.

President Yoweri Museveni earlier warned against grabbing Indian property managed under the DAPCB saying fraudsters will face serious consequences.

The president asked: “Why don’t you build your own houses? Why do you grab the Asian properties? They worked for them. They don’t want to sweat for their own properties?”

The minster of finance confirmed receipt of the letter but declined to discuss its details.

Kiwanuka noted that in August 2016, the Auditor General in exercise of his statutory mandate conducted two special audits on the operations of the DAPCB for the period February 1, 2011 to March 31, 2016 and April 1, 2018 to March 2017.

The two special audit reports were submitted to parliament in accordance with article 163(4) of the constitution and rule 178(a), (b), (c) and (d) of the rules of procedure of parliament, 2017, the parliamentary committee on commissions, statutory and state enterprises (COSASE) was assigned by parliament to examine the two special audit reports of the Auditor General on the operations of DAPCB,” Kiwanuka indicated.

Kiwanuka further noted that accordingly, COSASE constituted a sub-committee to consider the two special audit reports and investigate the management of the properties under the DAPCB.

In this regard, among the recommendations of the sub-committee was that DAPOCB should initiate process for the cancellation of certain repossession certificates previously issued by the ministry of finance, planning and economic development and any subtitles issued contrary to the opinion of the then Attorney General (Bart Katureebe) in his letter to the minister of state for finance date June 9, 1997. The same recommendation was adopted by Parliament.”

Kiryowa also said that although COSASE sub-committee investigations elicited findings similar to those of the auditor general as contained in the two special audit reports mentioned above, the recommendation of COSASE that DAPCB initiates the cancellation of certain repossession certificates and any substitute titles is legally untenable. This is in light of section 9(r)(d) of the Expropriated Properties Act 87 and case law and if carried forward, such action would only increase on the number of lawsuits likely to cause substantial loss to the government.

The Attorney General 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.

However once the minister has issued a certificate of repossession, the minster has no power to cancel it.