Hardly a month into his new job as deputy executive director at the government Media Centre, Col Shaban Bantariza was yesterday arrested, charged and remanded to Makindye Military prison over suspected fraud.
The army said the former director of the National Leadership Institute (NALI), Kyankwanzi was remanded by the General Court Martial on three counts of fraud, tampering with documents and attempted fraud.
Prosecution alleges that on February 3, 2011, he received a tractor to wit, an ITMCO Reg. No. UAN 652Z and its accessories donated to NALI by the Ministry of Finance but instead chose to put it to personal use.
Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the army spokesperson, said Col Bantariza’s arrest on Monday night by the military police and intelligence from his home in Bweyogerere followed submission of a report accusing him of “mismanaging” the Institute’s resources. “Col Shaban has questions to answer. The report was recently submitted and raises questions which he has to answer,” he said.
The investigations against Col Bantariza were reportedly ordered by President Museveni in 2011 following corruption allegations at NALI. Although the army insists that the report is new, investigations into the suspected crimes were actually carried out three years ago and the head of investigations team, the former Air Force Chief of Staff, Brig Moses Rwakitarate, has since been sacked.
When asked why the President appointed Col Bantariza as deputy boss of the Media Centre well-knowing he had this affair hanging over his head, Lt Col Ankunda said: “I can’t answer but what I know is that he has never been cleared.”
Brig. Diiba Ssentongo, the chairman of the General Court Martial, chaired the session yesterday but refused to say when Col Bantariza would be returned to court.
Military sources say Col Bantariza had applied to retire from the army. His arrest comes before his application was heard by the UPDF retirement board. After his arrest, he was first briefly detained at Senior Officers’ Mess, Accacia Avenue, Kololo in Kampala until 11am.
Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of the Media Centre, was also brief in his comments about the colonel’s detention. “I have been notified by the army that he has been arrested in relation to the offences he committed while Director NALI,” he said.
Col Bantariza, a teacher by profession, is known for being articulate with a combative attitude he exhibited when he was the army spokesperson from 2000 to 2002 and 2003 to 2006.
He is a former seminarian from Kitabi Seminary, Bushenyi District. He joined the Bush War in 1985. After capturing power he was deployed in northern Uganda as a political commissar. He worked closely with the late Maj Gen James Kazini and Brig Chefe Ali who oversaw operations against the LRA rebels. In 2007, he was deployed as commandant of the army’s Oliver Thambo School, Kaweweta before being appointed to head NALI.