Shs 24bn Scandal: How Rukutana Quietly Signed Shady Mutungo Land Compensation Deal

Embattled Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana used the pretext of being “disrespected” to disparage the Land Commission led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and avoid scrutiny on how he authorised a fictitious payment of interest amounting to Shs 24bn on an already-fully-paid compensation amount of Shs 2.4 bn for land in Mutungo, Kampala.

Rukutana on February 20, 2019 appeared before the Commission to testify about Shs 24.6 bn compensation to Dr Mohammed Kasasa, for land taken over by the External Security Organisation (ESO) at Mutungo Hill.

Upon coming under intense questioning, Rukutana lost his cool, telling off Bamugemereire he would only respect her if she respected him.

Bamugemereire condemned the “condescending” attitude of the Minister before kicking him out of the committee.

Rukutana said he didn’t give a “damn” and that Bamugemereire “can go and hang.” The Minister said he didn’t care whether she reported the matter to President Museveni or the Pope and even God.

The remarks shook the nation with critics condemning the Minister’s disdainful attitude. Some hailed Rukutana for “taming” Bamugemereire who has previously attacked witnesses.

This website has learned that government had already settled Shs 2.5bn claim for the land. However, Rukutana personally went ahead and entered a new agreement on a fictitious interest of Shs 24bn which is partly why he didn’t want to explain to Justice Bamugemereire’s team.

Officials said such dubious payments are common at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs led by Hon Kahinda Otafiire.

Inside Story

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission revealed Rukutana first appeared before the Commission on February 5 when he pleaded having been given insufficient notice to respond to the Mutungo land issues.

Rukutana requested for more time to put together all pertinent evidence.

The Commission granted him 15 days.

He was to obtain all the necessary documents, correspondences and advice upon which he relied to issue a Legal Opinion in support of the Shs 24.6 billion compensation to Dr Kasasa.

This is by far the widest matter within the mandate of the Commission cutting across almost all the Terms of Reference.

The Shs 24.6 Bn claim, under investigation before the Commission, is solely derived from interest computed on a belated but already-fully-paid amount of Shs 2.4 bn at an undefined bank rate.

The Commission said information received suggested that the Shs 2.4 bn amount was already paid, by the Government, in various instalments.

“The Commission, therefore, sought to understand the method by which the interest was arrived at and whether learned Attorney General had undertaken due diligence, verified and subsequently endorsed the current claim of Shs 24.6 bn,” the press statement reads in part.

The claim is a matter of a wide dispute which involves the alleged sale of 640 acres originally registered as the private property of the late Sir Edward David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Muteesa.

12 acres, of this land, were taken by the External Security Organisation.

Relatedly, the Commission also sought to understand why Rukutana deemed it fit to enter a fresh agreement, in December, 2017, in respect of Dr Kasasa thereby committing the Government to an obligation to pay Shs 24.6 Bn purely derived from claims of interest which in turn also attract interest.

Another matter for clarification concerned the disregard of the Auditor General’s qualificationof the Dr Kasasa compensation noting that it was misconceived and was ratified in a matter contrary to due process.

During his appearance before the Commission, Rukutana roundly dismissed the Auditor General’s opinion.

The Return of Rukutana

He would return to the Commission on February 20, 2019.

The hearing commenced at 10.00 am with the Lead Counsel putting questions to the Deputy Attorney General which, from the outset, he answered in a manner the Commission says was “flippant, reckless and disrespectful”.

The signing of an agreement entered in December 2017 by Rukutana on behalf of the Government and the authoring, again by him, of an opinion of December, 2018 have the net effect of expediting the compensation of Shs 24.6 bn despite the Commission’s ongoing investigation.

“It should be noted that it appears that the Learned Deputy Attorney General issued an opinion in utter disregard of an Interim Court Order issued by the High Court. There have been allegations that the compensation figure at stake was inflated and arrived at irregularly or even fraudulently,” the Commission.

Assistant Registrar, Justine Atukwasa on November 5, 2018 issued a provisional order against the first respondent (Dr Kasasa), his successors, agents, assignees, servants or workers and/or anyone else “claiming for and or on their behalf restraining, prohibiting, stopping and/or preventing him from claiming any compensation/payments from National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Uganda National Roads Authority, Standard Gauge Railway, and any other government institution or agency.”

However, Rukutana, later in December 2018, signed documents to allow the compensation of Kasasa, raising fears of corruption and self interest

Bamugemereire’s team said it had hoped that Rukutana would “shed light on the above issues concerning the methods by which he conducted due diligence to establish the integrity of Dr Kasasa’s claim before committing the Government to the obligation to compensate him. The Commission expected that, at the very least, he would refer it to people who could explain where he could not.”

Yet, when questions were put to Rukutana, the Commission said he was “openly hostile, combative, disrespectful and condescending towards the Commission. His conduct was provocative and would not facilitate constructive inquiry into the matters. This was of great concern to the Commission.”

The Commission further said it considered that Rukutana was not “professionally and psychologically prepared” to facilitate the Commission in its investigation.

“Given his open, antagonistic disregard of the Commission’s mandate, the Commission referred this matter back to the Appointing Authority to find another way of verifying, investigating and probing the Shs 24.6 bn compensation.”

Under fire

Rukutana has since refused to apologise despite public condemnation for his utterances.

Down in Rushenyi County in Ntungamo district, a constituency he represents in Parliament, there were numerous calls for Rukutana to apologize.

“I want to assure you and everyone that whatever I said was intentional and had a historic perspective that I will not share here,” said Rukutana.

“All I assure you is that I am not apologizing to you or anybody. It is your prerogative to interpret the incident the way you want, but personally I am so happy and satisfied. My only regret is that I never exhausted myself,” he added.

FDC’s Col Dr Kizza Besigye, said the “contempt and impunity” exhibited by Rukutana were “products of the enjoyment of Junta (unchecked) power- even by those fairly remote from its centre!”

The Commission said it would “continue to conduct its proceedings through an inquisitorial approach to the facts as presented.”

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