By Edris Kiggundu
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and her team of commissioners have done some commendable work in trying to reach the bottom of the land problem in this country.
A number of big shots in government have been implicated in land grabbing in various parts of the country and indeed many have appeared before the dreaded committee.
Many people have been willing to testify before the committee, a sign of the good will it enjoys from the public.
Yet the commission appears to be taking this goodwill for granted if one looks at the taxpayer’s money that has been spent on it.
This week, there were reports that the commission had been given an additional Shs 2 billion by the government bringing the total money spent by the commission since its inception in May 2017 to Shs 23 billion.
This means that on average the commission has been using at least Shs 2 billion per month.
This begs the question: Where has all this money gone to?
Justice Bamugemereire was quoted in Daily Monitor as saying that since the commission is conducting a public interest duty, their investigations have been very costly.
She however did not put a figure on how much the commission has used to conduct these investigations, denying us a better perspective.
She also appeared offended by the suggestion that the commission’s books should be scrutinized arguing that “no amount of blackmail” will intimidate them.
I think this statement is uncalled for given that what we are all striving for here is transparency.
Just like we scrutinize the budget allocated to State House, Police, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance etc.., so we should the Bamugemereire-led commission.
For starters it is funded by taxpayer’s money just like all other government initiatives.
So why shouldn’t the people, in whose interest the commission is acting, query how the commission is using its money?
There are already reports that some of the commissioners are pocketing as much as $1000 per day which translates into Shs 3.5 million.
No wonder there are voices to have the commission’s tenure extended because this would come with huge financial benefits.
What does this image portray in a country when many people live off less than Shs 3600 per day?
How does one expect the general public to take these demands? Must all of us keep quiet and just pat the commission on the back for doing good work (which it has done)? Or should we also speak out on the commission’s excesses?
In my view, the public has every right to scrutinize each and every aspect of the commission including the way it has conducted its work.
There have been praises for Bamugemereire especially on the way she has stood her ground in the face of some evasive officials.
In the same vein, there have been people who have criticized the committee’s tone of work. Some times commissioners have turned into prosecutors and judges and condemned some witnesses without hearing their case in its entirety.
In a nutshell, the commission which has received a lot of support from the public should not take this goodwill for granted.
It must work within confines of the law and just like it is always willing to receive praises, it must be ready to be criticised.
The author is the Editor of The Nile Post where this article first appeared