The Ministry of Lands, Housing and urban Development has halted the eviction of civil servants from the government pool houses in Mbale and the sale of the same houses.
In a letter signed by Sam Engola, the state minister for Housing to the Chief Administrative officer of Mbale, the Ministry says the issue is being handled by the Permanent Secretary.
According to Minister Engola in his letter, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Gabindadde Musoke, who is also the chairperson of the Pool Houses Sales Committee, has directed for an investigation into the alleged wrongful eviction of retired civil servants from the government houses. Musoke, according to the minister, also wants sale of the government houses across the country investigated.
He says that the investigation committee comprises of membership from Housing Directorate, Internal Audit, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Ministry of Public service.
Engola accordingly directed the Mbale District Chief Administrative Officer, Ben Ogwette Otim, to immediately halt the planned eviction of the retired civil servants from these houses pending the findings from the investigation committee which is due to start soon.
The ministry’s action stemmed from the recent petition to the office of the President and Parliament by more than 10 retired civil servants who are sitting tenants in the government pool houses in Mbale. They complained over the illegal eviction by the Housing Finance Company Limited.
In their petition, in May this year the pensioners claimed that they were offered the houses as sitting tenants by government in 1994 in line with the government policy to divest itself from housing civil servants through the then Ministry of Lands, Housing and Physical Planning.
According to them, they were to pay for the houses in installments through Housing Finance Company Limited which government contracted to give away the houses through mortgaging.
However, the pensioners claim that after paying more than three quarters of the money expected from them, the Housing Finance has sold off the houses to other people. They said they have been issued notices of eviction to pave way for the redevelopment of the houses by the new clients.
But they are protesting the move by the Housing Finance Company which they accused of fraud.
Dr. Justin Aongat Egolu, a 65-year-old retired veterinary doctor who is the chief petitioner, said he was offered a house on Plot 42 in Buwalasi View in Mbale Municipality at 18 million shillings to be paid in 15 years through monthly installments.
He said in six years he has so far paid 17.3 million shillings, but was shocked to receive a notice of eviction from Housing Finance Company through Superstar Auctioneers and Court Bailiffs asking him to evacuate the house by March 31, 2013.
In our earlier interview with Richard Masaba, the Branch Manager of Housing Finance Bank in Mbale, he rubbished the claims by the pensioners that the company is conniving with some rich people to grab the houses.
He instead accused some of them of failing to service their mortgage loans, a reason for evicting them from the houses.
Margret Kabagenyi, a retired District Education Officer and one of the victims, is happy about the Ministry’s directive. She says it came at the time they were stranded and waiting to be thrown out of the houses.
Attempts to get a comment from the Mbale Chief Administrative Officer were futile as he was not in his office when local media visited him. He also did not answer or return repeated phone calls.