People & Power

Shs1b fraud case still pending over PS Lukwago’s contest

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Health ministry PS Asuman Lukwago

Health ministry PS Asuman Lukwago 

By  Dear Jeanne

Posted  Sunday, December 22  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Complaint. The case came to a halt when the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Mr Asuman Lukwago petitioned the Constitutional Court, saying the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate director had erroneously charged him.

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It was the case that opened up 2013 after police and central bank intercepted a questionable transfer of Shs1.2 billion to a forged National Medical Stores (NMS) account in ABC Capital Bank.

The case saw a number of senior officials in both the Ministry of Health and NMS interrogated and released on police bond before it was forwarded to court for prosecution.

The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Mr Asuman Lukwago, Mr Ponziano Nyeko, an assistant commissioner in the Health Ministry, Mr Alex Gumisiriza, who is a Global Fund project finance manager in the Health ministry, and Mr Sabiiti Tibaijuka, a former police officer, were charged at the Anti – Corruption Court with connivance and attempt to steal more than Shs1 billion from the ministry’s Global Fund project.

The case, however, came to a halt when Dr Lukwago petitioned the Constitutional Court, saying the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID) director, Ms Grace Akullo had erroneously charged him.

The Constitutional Court issued an interim order temporarily stopping the trial of Dr Lukwago before the Anti-Corruption Court until when the grievances he raised are tackled.

The hearing at the Constitutional Court is still pending, almost six months since the interim order was issued. According to the charge sheet at the Anti-Corruption Court, Dr Lukwago was facing a separately charge of neglecting his official accounting duties when he allegedly failed to ensure the proper expenditure of the ministry’s funds according to the Public and Accountability Act 2003.

The prosecution had alleged that he failed to ensure the propriety of the expenditure of the Ministry of Health by signing Security Paper No. 186271 thereby authorising Bank of Uganda to credit a fraudulent bank account in the names of NMS.

Intercepting the funds
Officials from at least three government departments in January moved to block the Shs1 billion transaction to an NMS forged account after they learnt that the police had intercepted the transaction.

The money was moving from the Central Bank to an account opened in November 2012 in ABC Capital Bank in the name of NMS.

The transfer was allegedly part of the payment for drugs delivered by NMS to the Health ministry’s Malaria Control Programme.

Dr Lukwago, in a letter dated January 8, 2013 but delivered a day later to police, sought help to investigate the case.

Police had in November 2012 received intelligence reports about the suspected theft of funds but had allowed it to go ahead until the last transaction, to arrest all the suspects.

Immediately after the account was opened, police were informed of an account in the name of NMS that had been opened in a local bank.

Detectives asked the bankers to keep it a secret until the transaction had been completed to help them investigate the source.

Interestingly, on November 19, 2012 an invoice with an NMS logo was sent to Bank of Uganda, ordering the transfer of funds to an account in ABC Capital Bank.

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