The Shs50bn Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) hangs in balance after a section of MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called for its disbandment, saying that it is operating illegally.
PAC in its report on the audit findings dated June 2015 highlighted that the PIBID project has been running on five patents which have been researched and developed through Government funding since 2004/2005.
However, it was noted that patent rights were registered as intellectual property under the names of an individual, which indicates that these patents were registered without guidance from the Attorney General and therefore it is difficult to know whether government’s stake in the patents was taken care of following the huge investment of over Shs50bn in the project through Ministry of Finance.
Section 119(3) of the Constitution provides guidance that; the Attorney General sha11 be the principal lega1 adviser of Government while sub-section 4(a) further guides that the Attorney General shall give legal advice and legal services to the Government on any subject.
“PIBID should be disbanded and no more funds be allocated to it until its legal status is regularized.
The Secretary to Treasury should urgently pursue the remedies available under the Industrial Property Act 2014 and have the patents vested in the Government as the employer of the scientists under PIBID or paid for by the scientists,” the Committee report reads in part.
The report further reveals that that only three out of the five patents were registered in Uganda while the two were registered with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).
As such, the Auditors warned that there is a risk that Government interests in the patent may be forfeited or lost when the project is commercialised unless a follow up and legal advice is sought on this matter.
The Auditors also pointed out status of the Land Located in Bushenyi highlighting that the banana project owns land in Bushenyi together with other movable properties.
However, it was noted that the land title is still in the names of the project without the legal mandate to continue owning this land on behalf of Government unless the expired legal status is resolved following the legal opinion of the Attorney General to transfer the project to Agriculture ministry.
The Auditors warned that Government risks losing the land especially when the project is fully commercialized through a Public Private Partnership given that Government has heavily invested in land, constructions, production equipment, transport facilities and banana plantations as a source of raw materials through this arrangement.