The office of the Government Chief Valuer is battling a range of difficulties including underfunding and lack of a clear law to guide its operations.
Speaking before the Commission of Inquiry into Land matters, Robert Kermundo, the Government Chief Valuer, said his office operates under scattered laws relating to valuation, land acquisition and resettlement.
He said the absence of clear law establishing the office of the Government Chief Valuer has made difficult for the office to make independent decisions.
Kermundo said he is yearning to get a provision where the Office of the Government Chief Valuer is well established by law. Kermundo, whose mandate involves carrying out valuation of all government Ministries and Departments, stunned the Commission when he disclosed that the Lands Ministry has been operating for the last fifty years without a policy on land acquisitions, resettlement and rehabilitation.
He said government’s land acquisitions and resettlements are guided by the 1965 Land Acquisition Act, which is implemented in a vacuum due to the absence of a guiding policy. Kermundo told the Commission that without a guiding policy, issues of land Acquisition cannot be adequately addressed.
This comes at a time when government is engaged in massive Land acquisition for Oil development in Bulisa and Nwoya districts and key projects like the Standard Gauge Railway and Road expansion under Uganda National Roads Authority.
The Refinery-affected persons in the Albertine Graben have voiced concerns over the way the government has handled land acquisitions and resettlement. The Commission also heard from Kermundo that the Oil Joint Venture partners, Tullow, CNOOC and Total have equally been caught in the confusion given the absence of a policy to guide how land is acquired and resettle affected persons.
He says in the interim, the Joint Venture Partners chose to become proactive by producing their own Land Acquisition Framework in absence of a government policy. Kerumundo says Joint Venture land acquisition frameworks still need to be in consonance with the National Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, which is being drafted.
In a related development, Kermundo told the Commissions that his office has for many years been underfunded by the government yet it is supposed do valuations for all ministries, Authorities and districts in the country. The Government Chief Valuer’s Office according to Kermundo receives two hundred million Shillings, which he says is too little compared to its mandate and scope of work
The Commission’s lead Counsel, Ebert Byenkya noted that the office of the Government Chief Valuer is crucial in determining how people are to be paid or and the price at, which government property is to be sold off. Byenkya wondered whether there was a situation where a private citizen was more likely than not to profit or not depending on the valuation report issued by the underfunded government chief valuer’s office.
According to Kermundo, in the 2014/2015 financial year, the office of the Chief government valuer generated over Shillings 100 billion in assessment of land duties. He said all the money it generates goes to the consolidated fund and prayed that part of the money could be used to fund its activities.
The Justice Catherine Bamugemeriere chaired Commission is mandated among other to inquired into land acquisition. It is expected to inquire into a situation where the office of Chief Government Valuer cannot effectively supervise and advise of land acquisition and valuation in the country.