Following Thursday’s sensational disclosure by Mr David Chandi Jamwa that “immense” and “terrible pressure” was applied on him to close the now-controversial Shs11 billion NSSF land purchase deal, it is time for the ministers at the centre of this saga to own up.
Until now, Security Minister Amama Mbabazi and Dr Ezra Suruma of the finance ministry have waffled. While maintaining that they did not peddle political influence to land this deal, which is unlawful, they have protested their innocence.
Under oath when he appeared before the investigating House committee on September 11, Mr Mbabazi also denied having had any contact with the Fund. In fact, he said he left his associate, city businessman Amos Nzeyi to handle the entire transaction.
Now it appears that this may not be an entirely accurate account of what actually transpired. We have not officially heard Dr Suruma and Mr Mbabazi’s reaction to Mr Jamwa’s assertions so it would be unfair to take a position either way. But this is not to take away anything from the fact that this is a serious development.
If it is true the ministers lied under oath it could have far-reaching implications for their political careers. Secondly, the core of their defence has been that they did not peddle any political influence in order to get the Fund to buy more than 400 acres of land from Mr Mbabazi and Mr Nzeyi. Mr Suruma as line minister sanctioned the transaction.
Thursday’s revelations would seem to greatly undermine that defence and it brings the credibility of the ministers into further question.
The cat appears half way out of the bag. It is at times like this when it serves everybody’s interest that the whole truth comes out. The more than 250,000 workers in private employment who contribute to NSSF have a right to know how their life savings are being invested, the taxpayers who are paying for the time and effort being consumed by this investigation demand value for money, and the virtuous principle of accountable leadership requires that those in public service be prepared to be transparent.
The defenders of the Temangalo land purchase have made the sensible argument that by planning to put up a low cost housing estate (5,000 units) in this place, NSSF was making a sound business decision. On the face of it, this seems to be true. Uganda is facing a severe shortage in decent housing with Kampala alone requiring more than 60,000 units to meet demand as at 2006 estimates of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
The boom in the housing construction market is eloquent testimony to this. So why does Mr Jamwa have to be placed under all sorts of pressure to agree to what looks like a splendid idea?
In coming clean, Mr Mbabazi and Dr Suruma will help clarify this matter.