Anti-corruption activists yesterday welcomed criminal summonses issued against three senior Cabinet ministers on charges of abuse of office and causing financial loss in relation to a Shs14 billion spent during the Chogm summit.
Ms Irene Akankwasa, the chief magistrate at the Anti-Corruption Court, issued the summonses against Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, Government Chief Whip John Nasasira and junior minister for Labour Mwesigwa Rukutana—all previously thought to be well-connected individuals in President Museveni’s government.
They will appear before the court on October 13, where they will be charged. The trio’s indictment follows Monday’s remanding of former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya on similar charges in a Shs9.4 billion deal involving the procurement of executive cars for the Commonwealth summit.
The Executive Director Transparency International Uganda, Mr Robert Lugoloobi, said all ministers named in Chogm scandals should be arrested and charged in the Anti-Corruption Court.
“The list of the ‘crocodiles’ who have mismanaged public funds is long,” Mr Lugoloobi said. “We welcome these indictments but more should be done to prosecute whoever is involved in corruption. Those named in Gavi and Global Fund should all face the law. We want all the corruption cases to be pursued to their logical conclusion.”
The ministers have been indicted in respect to a Shs14 billion tender for walkways and construction of a new marina at Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, where the government owned 25 per cent stake ahead of the Chogm summit. The money was supposedly invested on land owned by Meera Investments Ltd, a company belonging to city mogul Sudhir Ruparelia.
Under the MoU document approved by Cabinet, Secretary to the Treasury Chris Kassami and former Foreign Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary Ambassador Julius Onen signed the deal on March 13, 2006 at the behest of Cabinet and President Museveni.
While his co-accused were not readily available for comment, Mr Kutesa said yesterday, “These charges are baseless. The Auditor General and PAC made their investigations and never raised this issue of Munyonyo. Out of the blue, the IGG comes up with trumped up charges but we’ll have our day in court and shall stand up to this.”
Unmoved, Acting IGG Raphael Baku last night said one more unnamed minister will soon be charged before he concludes the Chogm investigations. He also asked the three ministers to step aside.
Mr Baku’s call for the indicted ministers to step aside was echoed by the Executive Director Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, Ms Cissy Kagaba, who said it would be unfortunate if the government is only using the prosecutions for public relations.
She said those found guilty should refund public money and be barred from holding public offices.
Yesterday morning’s developments came 24 hours after the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus gave the government five days to have all ministers implicated in the billion-shilling Chogm scandals arrested, or else they call a demonstration against selective prosecution.
The Leader of Opposition, Mr Nandala Mafabi, who chaired the Chogm probe by the Public Accounts Committee, scoffed at Mr Kutesa’s summonses as a “travesty of justice”. He insisted that Mr Kutesa should have been charged with abuse of office in relation to Chogm vehicles like Prof. Bukenya.
Mr Rogers Kinobe, a prosecutor in the IGG’s office, yesterday told Daily Monitor that abuse of office, under the Anti-Corruption Act 2009, attracts a custodial sentence of not more than seven years or a fine of Shs4.2 million or both. While causing financial loss has a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail or a fine of Shs9 million or both.