Former State minister for Health Mike Mukula yesterday told the Anti-Corruption Court that First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni asked for and her office was given Shs54 million of the funds meant for the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (Gavi) programme in Uganda.
He said: “First, I deny. I did not steal Shs210 million from the Gavi account. My clear recollection is that on 14th January 2005, at Imperial Resort Hotel in Entebbe, in a meeting with the First Lady of the Republic of Uganda, Mama Janet Museveni, a verbal request was made to me in person to help her source funding for her activities in mobilisation in the country for the good health of children, mothers and others.”
Captain Mukula, who has been charged with stealing Shs210 million from the Gavi fund account, took to the dock in the fully packed court in the Kololo suburb, for the first time to defend himself against the allegations. He was led in his defence by his advocate, Mr Atenyi Tibejuka.
The Soroti Municipality MP, who is also the national vice-chairman of the ruling NRM in charge of eastern Uganda, said: “I did not see the money. I did not touch the money and I did not even smell the money.” He told the court presided over by Chief Magistrate Irene Akankwasa that he accepted the First Lady’s request before asking her to formalise it in writing.
“On the 31st of January 2005, a letter was forwarded to me signed by Madam Margaret Lalam, one of the senior private secretaries in the State House, actualising the formal request from Mama Janet Museveni, with an attachment enclosed of a follow-up of three proposed conferences,” he said.
After consulting with Major-General (rtd) Jim Muhwezi, who was then his boss in the Health ministry, he said, the money was processed and paid out.
The 56-year-old Mukula said three vouchers were prepared in different amounts --- Shs136,890,000 million, Shs73,146,000million, and Shs53,819,000 million, bringing the total to Shs263,855,000 million, which he signed.
He said only Shs54 million was disbursed to the office of the First Lady, and the remaining Shs210 million re-banked on the Gavi account held with the Bank of Uganda.
“I am aware that the Shs54 million was received and acknowledged by First Lady’s office and it was accounted for,” said Capt Mukula.
Asked by the public prosecutor, Mr Sydney Asubo, whether he tried to find out why the Shs210 million was re-banked, he said: “I did not find out.”
The second defence witness, Ms Lydia Nalwanga, who was an accounts assistant at the ministry in 2005, said she prepared the three vouchers and later disbursed the Shs54 million to the First Lady’s office. She then re-banked the Shs210m in the Gavi account at Bank of Uganda.
“We released Sh54m for the first conference organized by the office First Lady and the balance of Shs210m I personally re-banked.” Today, both the prosecution and the defence lawyers are expected to make their final oral submissions before the judgment is made.