Pader District Executives, Former CAO Accused Of Misappropriating Shs 365million Premium Cash

Ocen refuted the allegations saying, if part of the 365m was used for the above legal activities it doesn't in any way indicate misuse of funds. He further challenged those alleging that the executive misappropriated these funds to present proof.

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LC 3 letter
The letter from the Angagura LC 3 chairperson, Mr Okello Freddy Stephen
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The Angagura sub-county chairperson III has accused former Pader district chief administrative officer, Mr Robert Adebuason and the Pader district executives of misappropriating and embezzling Shs 365.47million premium and land rent fees paid by Pura Organic Agrotech Limited on the 11th of December 2023.

The Angagura sub-county chairperson, Mr Okello Stephen Freddy in his letter dated 2nd of February 2024 and addressed to Pader RDC alleges that the former CAO shared the money with district executive headed by Rtd Col. Fearless Obwoya Oyat which is contrary to the Local Government Act Cap 243 Section 85 subsection 2.

Mr Okello acknowledges that their efforts to obtain the 65 percent as required by the law were futile as the district kept mute on the remittance. “The Angagura sub-county leaders were not informed about the investor in question, and they were sidelined by the district executives while executing the funds from the Pura Organic Agrotech Limited,” he explains.



The Angagura sub-county councilor V, Mr Ojok Dickson, when commenting on the matter, accused the district executives of unlawfully obtaining the premiums without the consent of the immediate landlord who are the residents of Angagura sub-county.

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When contacted for comments, the former Pader district Chief Administrative Officer Mr. Robert Adebuason refuted the claims saying that the embezzlement allegation is not true. “The Angagura chairperson III is entitled to his opinion that I can’t stop him from expressing his views,” he asserts. When asked if there are funds in the district account, Adebuason did not respond to the question.

Earlier on, Mr Adebuason said that the cash may be remitted after looking at several issues including; how the sub-county was remitting revenues, among others. He added that the law also allows the district to retain the money without quoting which law.

Meanwhile, the Pader district vice chairperson who doubles as the Latanya sub-county councilor V Mr Justine Ocen, responding on behalf of the district executives, labeled the claims as baseless and refuted it saying that the land leased to Pura Organic Agrotech Limited is a district land, and that, the district deserves all the rights to allocate whatever amount they want to Angagura sub-county.



Ocen confirmed to our reporter that the district received the money, but the money has not been used as alleged. “The district will use the money for planned purposes as required, among which is expenses in the office of the district chairperson, chief administrative officer, council activities, statutory bodies, among others,” he explains. He said the sub-county does not own the land leased to Angagura sub-county because it’s not owned by them.

He further explains that Pader district council passed a policy to give land to investors of which Pura Organic Agro Tech limited was allocated land in Acholi Ranch for a period of five years on leasehold terms.

“The land in question can only be handed over upon payment of premium, Ground rent and legal fee for leasehold title. This payment was duly made to the Pader district Local government account. By law this payment is part of the local revenue,” Ocen explained.

He was quoted stating that, “Local government Act mandates the local governments to spend 20 percent of its local revenue for the previous financial year on council operations. Council operations include operation funds for district Chair, district executive committee, District council speaker, Allowance for district councilors, funds for statutory bodies among others.”

According to him, the local revenue sharing between the district and sub county, the law is very clear on who should get what based on who owns the assets generating the funds.

Ocen refuted the allegations saying, if part of the 365m was used for the above legal activities it doesn’t in any way indicate misuse of funds. He further challenged those alleging that the executive misappropriated these funds to present proof.

He added that, “this so-called alleged ‘misappropriation’ is said to damage the image of the executive, pure politicking. Let the truth be spoken. Government money is not distributed like pancakes in schools.”

Aruu county former MP, Odongo Otoo and current Aruu North MP Santa Okot condemned the district authorities for leasing the land to Pura Organic Agrotech Limited.

Court ruling on the contested land 

Court records indicate that, in 2019, a group of five petitioners who included Rtd Justice Galdino Moro Okello, Rtd Bishop Macleod Baker Ochola II, Livingstone Okello Okello, Rosalba Oywa and Center for Public Interest Law Limited petitioned the constitutional court in Kampala to block all districts in Acholi from leasing it as the rightful owners since it was a customary land.



The court ruled in March 2023 that; the land in question is a customary land, and that, the district land board cannot grant leases out of the land which is not vested in them, and the leases can be granted by the customary owners of the land, and the lease grant facilitated by the district land board under article 241 (1) (b) of the 1995 constitution.

However, the district land board went ahead and instructed the district to lease the land as the rightful owners.

Mr Julius Nyeko, the Pader district acting land officer declined to respond when contacted over the matter. “I can’t give you the details about the court ruling, because it may affect my work. First seek authority from CAO and when he accepts, I will give you my comments,” Nyeko states.

The Chief Administrative Officer Mr Michael Wangi declined to comment saying he just joined the district 2024, adding that he does not know about any court ruling.

The leasing of the Acholi ranch by the district attracted bitter comments and condemnations from all former leaders of Pader district. Aruu county former MP, Odongo Otoo and current Aruu North MP Santa Okot condemned the district authorities for leasing the land to Pura Organic Agrotech Limited. Okot said they are preparing to take the district leaders to court over allegations of grabbing community lands from the locals.

According to her, signatures will be collected from all the affected communities for presentation before the constitutional court so that leasing of the land be nullified, and responsible officers held liable for whatever will come out.

Receipt

Ker Kwaro Acholi Cultural interests 

The Ker Kwaro Acholi institution and the Payira clan in Greater Atanga had earlier pledged to carry out a thorough investigation into the alleged unlawful distribution of over Shs. 365million paid by Pura Organic Agrotech Limited for land premium and rent to the district authorities.

Following the issues surrounding the alleged misappropriation of the money, His Highness Rwot David Onen Acana II, the Paramount Acholi Chief stated that the cultural institution was not informed about any transaction on “their land”.

According to him, the issue of the ranch land has been so complicated, and they have been advocating for cultural ownership, but they were told it belongs to the government. “The Ker Kwaro Acholi will take keen interest in the land issue. We shall write to the district to explain their stand on the accusation and misappropriation of funds from the land,” Acana explains.

The money was received by the district under receipt voucher number 06878, amounting to Shs.365,470,000.

Pader district in the past budget conference on Friday 27th October 2023 approved Shs 780,000,000 as their projected locally raised revenues.



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