By Chris Kiwawulo
A company linked to finance minister Maria Kiwanuka and her husband Mohan Kiwanuka, is being accused of transferring Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) land in Naguru, a Kampala suburb.
According to documents seen by Saturday Vision, Unigroup applied to rent approximately 7.8 acres from Radio Uganda (now UBC radio), from January 1994, on a monthly rental fee of sh4.7m.
But UBC claims that Unigroup has not paid them any money and instead allegedly transferred part of the land (2.6 acres), into its name.
“After lengthy negotiations, Unigroup was served with a bill of sh4,722,950 per month as ground rent starting January 1994. Unigroup has since not paid any rent. It installed a mast on the land and fraudulently obtained a leasehold title from Uganda Land Commission (ULC),” UBC managing director Paul Kihika said in a letter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). Unigroup has a 49-year lease.
Consequently, UBC on June 30 this year sent a sh1.8b invoice to Unigroup covering a period of 222 months (between January 1994 and June 2012) plus annual increments at a rate of 6% per annum.
Sources said Unigroup, the parent company that runs Radio One and Radio Two (Akaboozi) owned by the Kiwanukas, had installed masts for the two stations in the middle of UBC land.
“Unigroup acquired a lease of 2.6 acres in the middle of UBC land where they erected their towers. The company had earlier applied to the ministry of information for land but the matter was not concluded. That is why their lease is not on the UBC parent title as an encumbrance,” a source in the President’s office revealed.
Saturday Vision has also established that Unigroup shares plot M218 Factory Close, Nakawa Industrial Area, with Oscar industries, also owned by the Kiwanukas.
According to Kihika’s letter, Unigroup has refused to pay rent to UBC and continues to enjoy commercial benefits from the land.
This is why Kihika requested CID to investigate the matter and recover the corporation’s land. CID director Grace Akullo confirmed receiving the complaint. “I received it (on July 4) but I have not yet studied it.”
However, Unigroup official Adnan Damula dismissed Kihika’s claims, arguing that they acquired a lease from ULC and that they pay ground rent of sh1m per year.
Damula in a July 2, 2012 letter to Kihika said: “We write to advise that there are no outstanding property rates or ground rent on the property Unigroup Limited owns on plot 8 Water Lane Naguru Hill.
The title we hold is leasehold from ULC and not UBC.
The lease stipulates payment of sh1m as ground rent per year.” Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka could not be reached for a comment as she was not picking her phone.
Kiwanuka was the general manager of Radio one/Radio two from 1997 until 2011, when President Yoweri Museveni appointed her the finance minister.
When contacted on Thursday, ULC chairman Mayanja Nkangi declined to comment on the matter and referred all inquiries to the commission’s principal lands officer, Paul Idude.
But earlier, Idude had said he was not authorised to speak to the press.
When Saturday Vision informed Nkangi that Idude had said he was not authorised to speak to the press, Nkangi insisted that, “he (Idude) is the right person to contact for that information.”
According to documents seen by Saturday Vision, Radio Uganda and Uganda Television first acquired the freehold land title on April 1, 1962. ULC transferred the land to UBC on February 6, 2007, after Radio Uganda and Uganda Television were incorporated.
However, ULC later parcelled plot M35 and leased it to Unigroup.
A search in the lands ministry in December 2011 established that the land had been mortgaged to Stanbic bank in April 2008.
Another search done on May 18, 2012, showed that the Stanbic mortgage was still on with a further charge (renewed mortgage) registered on February 29, 2012 as encumbrances on the land together with a caveat placed by UBC on July 24, 2009.
This incident comes in the wake of earlier reports implicating former information ministers; Kirunda Kivejinja and Kabakumba Masiko in the fraudulent leasing out of 49 acres of UBC land on plot M47 Kibira Road and 23.5 acres on Faraday Road in Bugolobi.
Mohan Kiwawuka, one of the directors said they acquired the lease through proper channels on January 1, 2005 after former information minister Nsaba Buturo raised no objection to their request.
He said they paid sh23.3m for the lease and that they pay annual ground rent of sh1m to ULC as well as sh999,600 to Kampala Capital City Authority in property rates.
“My wife is not a director in Unigroup. The shareholders and directors are Metro Services Limited and Prepress Services Limited,” he said. He, however, did not give the names of the individuals behind the companies.
The piece of the 7.8 acre UBC land that Unigroup, of which Maria Kiwanuka and her husband are sole directors, is alleged to have fraudulently transferred into its name.
The amount of money UBC claims Unigroup owes it in rent arrears since January 1994
Source: New Vision