CID visit Bidandi seeking information on Constitution Square
Three officers from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) on Friday quizzed former Local Government minister, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, in an attempt to build up a case against businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba who was controversially paid Shs 142bn as compensation for losses incurred in markets and other properties.
Sources in CID have told The Observer that Bidandi’s input was vital because, as minister of Local Government, he foiled attempts by Kampala City Council (KCC) to lease out the Constitution Square, a city landmark, to Basajjabalaba.
The Observer has learnt that the CID officers met Bidandi at his Kiwatule Recreation Centre, near Ntinda, where they quizzed him for several hours. According to our sources, Bidandi was cooperative.
Now chairman of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bidandi confirmed being interviewed by the CID when The Observer contacted him. But he declined to divulge any details. He emphasized that it was not him under investigation, but that the officers wanted him to give them some information.
Sources told us Bidandi explained how he set up a commission of inquiry headed by Chris Mudoola to look into the giveaway of the Constitution Square. He explained that the commission recommended that given its historical significance, the Constitution Square should not be given away — a position he agreed with. Bidandi was also asked whether he has any relationship with the businessman, and he said he had none.
The interrogation comes less than a month after Bidandi, in an interview with The Observer, said Basajjabalaba did not deserve to be compensated for the Constitution Square. He said while still in government, he stopped KCC from awarding the businessman a lease to redevelop the green park.
“I took trouble to explain to KCC [not to give away Constitution Square], but it was not heeding. I stood firm and took the matter to the cabinet.
“Some people in cabinet did not see the significance of what we were talking about, so we agreed to set up a commission of inquiry, which was led by Chris Mudoola. Fortunately, [Mudoola’s commission] came up with recommendations that fortified my position — that this is one place in Uganda that should remain forever as a monument,” Bidandi said.
He also told us he doubts that the Shs 142bn went to Basajjabalaba’s account or that the businessman got even a quarter of it, fearing that the money could have been used to fund activities such as election campaigns.
The compensation saga last month led to the resignation of two ministers, Syda Bbumba (Gender, Labour and Social Development) and Dr Khiddu Makubuya (General Duties). Last week, three employees of State House (Joy Kabatsi, Geoffrey Atwine and Edward Muhoozi) were sacked for their various roles in the saga.
The Bank of Uganda Governor, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, who the Public Accounts Committee had wanted relieved of his duties, survived after a cabinet sub-committee investigating the matter found him not culpable. The cabinet took this position to Parliament, which cleared Mutebile amid acrimonious debate.
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