EMBATTLED CITY tycoon Hassan Basajjabalaba was yesterday kicked out of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after he failed to adduce evidence regarding his purported payment of Shs21bn owed to government.
Basajja’s woes started last week when the deputy secretary to the treasury Keith Muhakanizi told the committee that the tycoon had failed to pay the money. He added that out of frustration, government was considering selling off his business empire including land and buildings to recover the money.
However, upon hearing this move, the controversial money magnate contacted PAC requesting to meet the committee show that he actually paid and government is illegally holding onto his land titles. The committee chaired by Kassiano Wadri yesterday granted him chance to present his case with evidence, but the man flatly failed leading to his dismissal from the committee.
The committee had agreed to meet him to get his purported evidence of repayment in addition to asking him why government continues to hold onto his titles yet ‘he paid’! Appearing before the committee yesterday, Basajja who occasionally spoke through his lawyer Geoffrey Nangumya, claimed that he had paid government through a swap deal. He claimed that sometime in 2010, he proposed to the finance ministry that out of his Shs142bn owed to government as compensation for various botched city market deals, the ministry was supposed to deduct its money (Shs24.5bn).
This figure rose to Shs24.5bn because Basajja had also secured a loan from Uganda Development Bank (UDB) worth Shs3.5bn. “We agreed with the Ministry of Finance that before paying us any compensation, they should net off their Shs24.5bn. Finance agreed to this proposal. If any officer comes here and says we received Shs142bn wholesomely without deducting Shs24.5bn, then I have a case. We have evidence that finance agreed to deduct this money. We didn’t get the entire Shs142bn” he stated adding that all his balance on the Shs142bn was cleared.
Despite his insistence that finance deducted this money, Basajja was betrayed by the law of evidence to show that this dime was deducted by the same ministry which last week pinned him on failure to pay. The committee only wanted an acknowledgement letter from finance confirming payment of this money but he failed to produce it. In addition, the committee wondered why despite his claims of having paid the loan, he went behind Bank of Uganda’s back and forged land titles relating to the security he surrendered to the bank(s). “If you say that you cleared, you were supposed to get back your land titles. Then what was the intent of you getting (forging) other land titles?” committee vice chairperson, Paul Mwiru asked. ‘You are referring the committee to documents that do not relate with your business” committee lead counsel Edie Kwizera added.
At this juncture, Wadri lost his cool and told off Basajja who kept tabling a forest of ‘disastrous documents’ that ‘no amount of letters will convince this committee other than an acknowledgment letter from finance/accountant general that they got this Shs21bn. Any payments to government are acknowledged by the accountant general. This letter (you are tabling) is not acknowledgment that you paid. This is simple English. This is plain UPE English” Wadri faced a hard time as the committee nearly went to the dogs.
He kept shouting order reminding members and Basajja that ‘this is not Owino market where people shout in chorus……..mulonde mulonde’ Upon realising that nothing was forthcoming in terms of evidence, Wadri adjourned the meeting asking Basajja to reappear with necessary data relating to refund. He also said at an appropriate time, Basajja will appear together with Bank of Uganda and Ministry of Finance over this saga. “Basajja, it is your duty to go and bring evidence to show us that you paid. We have wasted a lot of time on this particular subject. We thought you would come with evidence. You have made an attempt to come and cleanse your image but failed because of lack of evidence” Wadri ruled.
Interestingly, Basajja had initially implored parliament to prevail over Bank of Uganda to surrender his titles. Basajja’s current misery stems from a decision by government to bail him out in 2004 when he secured loans from commercial banks but failed to pay.
(Reporting By Henry Mulindwa)