By Ambrose Kweronda
Byaruhanga Frank, the Regional Chairperson of Tea Nursery Bed Operators in Southwestern Uganda, has denied allegations of embezzlement involving their lawyer, Kiconco Patrick Katabazi, who was accused of misappropriating Sh 39 billion advanced by NAADs (National Agricultural Advisory Services) to settle tea farmers’ claims against the government.
These claims arose from the government’s failure to purchase their tea seedlings, resulting in losses. Frank addressed this matter during a meeting with tea nursery bed operators from Greater Kabale held at Kabale District Headquarters in Rukiko Hall, Kabale Municipality.
Speaking to journalists, Frank clarified that, as the regional committee of tea nursery bed operators, they had received approximately Sh 39 billion from the government, which was distributed to individual members, and they possess proper financial records as evidence. During the meeting, they discovered that some members and their tea seedlings were omitted during the previous verification exercise conducted by the Minister of Agriculture and NAADs, leading to incomplete compensation claims. Frank emphasized that this was not their lawyer’s fault but an oversight by NAADs.
In the same meeting, they agreed to hold a reconciliation meeting with NAADs and the Ministry of Agriculture in Kampala to address the unconsidered claims. They also resolved to convene another meeting in Mbarara before the end of September to compile a comprehensive document to present to the central government for consideration. Members who were initially excluded from NAADs’ compensation list due to missed verification are now being included under economic loss.
After the meeting, Lawyer Kiconco Katabazi asserted that none of the members presented documents proving they did not receive the funds. He attributed the origin of the conflict to a July 18th ruling awarding 75 billion to tea nursery bed operators. This ruling posed a threat to Roland Bish, the Member of Parliament for Rukiga County, who sought to tarnish the association’s image and hinder government transactions. Bish was concerned about Katabazi receiving his legal fee, as it posed a challenge to his electoral prospects in the next Parliamentary Sit elections in 2026.
Katabazi suggested that political motivations fueled these conflicts, particularly Bish’s efforts to obstruct progress in his area. Farmers in Rukiga District received over 4.3 billion, with Bish himself benefiting from a 200 million-shilling allocation as a member of the same association. Katabazi emphasized that his plans to run for a parliamentary seat in Rukiga District in 2026 were unrelated to the embezzlement allegations. Furthermore, Katabazi mentioned that the conflict extended beyond him and Bish, as various Anglican and Catholic churches also benefited from tea farming.
In conclusion, the tea nursery bed operators are actively working to resolve the compensation issue with the government and address any discrepancies that occurred during the verification process. Meanwhile, Lawyer Katabazi maintains his innocence in the embezzlement allegations, emphasizing that the underlying conflict is primarily politically motivated.