Detectives uncover how OPM officer used public funds to clear his loans

Sunday February 26 2017

The officer received money from the OPM for the

The officer received money from the OPM for the meeting but instead diverts the money to clear his own loans . ILLUSTRATIONS BY COSMAS ARINITWE. 

By ANDREW BAGALA

Kampala. Among the issues the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) had cleared was a sensitisation meeting for the local government officials in Karamoja sub-region, held in Moroto District on April 8, 2011.
The accountability document indicated that more than 60 government officials had converged in Moroto District to strategise on how OPM and local leaders can co-ordinate to alleviate poverty in the region facing food shortage and insecurity.
The then Assistant Commissioner of Programmes in the OPM, Martin Etyang, had well documented how the workshop was organised, funded and resources utilised. No one had questioned the accountability on which government spent more than Shs49m. The OPM accountants verified the accountability and rested the matter.
Nearly a year later after the OPM was hit by successive scandals, police detectives revisited accountability files that had been discharged. Etyang’s accountabilities were one of them.
Detective Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) David Orone and D/AIP Darius Eper were assigned to look into Etyang’s file.

When investigations commenced, the district
When investigations commenced, the district officers denied receiving or signing for any money.

Etyang had been a subject of several investigations after requesting for Shs50 million to buy cattle and goats for women self-help groups in Karamoja.
Double that amount was sent to his personal account. But the challenge was that he could not account for funds to the tune of Shs320m that had been sent on his personal account.
The two detectives focused on the workshop which Etyang had indicated that they spent the entire day attending and thereafter, spent a night since the security situation in the region was not good.
The detectives summoned Etyang to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Kibuli, Kampala where he insisted that the details he stated in his report, which he submitted to his superiors was factual.
Detectives Orone and Eper were assigned to look into the file of Etyang’s accountability.They decided to follow the transaction from its origin at the OPM.
While examining the documents, the two officers found out that Etyang had made a loose minute for the funding of three items, including a workshop, monitoring, imprest for OPM officials and purchase of equipment to be used in the implementation of the programme.
According to documents, Etyang handed over the loose minute to one Irene Birungi to formally make a requisition.
D/AIP Orone sought a chat with Birungi who confirmed to him that when the loose minute was handed over to her, she entered it in the OPM system indicating a Shs49.5m amount for the project.
Birungi’s statement was recorded and the documents were obtained by the officers.
Birungi said that after the request was prepared and necessary examinations done, it was forwarded for payments. The then OPM Permanent Secretary, Mr Pius Bigirimana, sanctioned the payments.
The detectives learnt that the money was to be wired from Bank of Uganda and Yahaya Kasulo handed the transaction. Kasulo told detectives that in the second week of February 2011 the money was wired to Etyang’s account.
D/AIP Eper was then told by the then under-secretary in the OPM, Benjamin Kumumanya, that a month or so after the said programme, Etyang produced the accountability.
Kumumanya told the detectives that the accountability he got from Etyang was for Shs34.7m. He said he took the accountability to the then principal accountant, Mr Godfrey Kazinda, whose duty was to verify whether work was done or not.

The forensic personnel realises that the
The forensic personnel realises that the signatures were forged.

Kazinda confirmed that the work had been done and the file was put away.

Ghost workshop
Done with statements from OPM headquarters, D/AIP Eper went to the field to talk to officials at local government level in Karamoja sub-region who were said to have benefitted from the workshop.
D/AIP Eper asked Andrew Napaja, the then Resident District Commissioner for Kotido District, whether he attended a workshop organised by OPM on April 8, 2011. Napaja said he didn’t and was unaware of it. His statement was recorded.
The officer went to Moroto District and talked to Nahaman Ojwe, the Resident District Commissioner about the same. He was also not aware about the meeting.
The meeting is said to have been held in his jurisdiction.
D/AIP Eper couldn’t find any person of the 60 and more people, who confirmed to have attended the said workshop.
Signatures of all the persons who were indicated to have received facilitation for the event were taken and submitted to the police forensic directorate for analysis.
A report from the forensic directorate indicated that none of the signatures of the beneficiaries matched with their genuine ones, which indicated that the accountability could have been forged.
D/AIP Eper and D/AIP Orone sought a forensic audit on Etyang’s bank were the funds were sent.

Fraud unearthed
The finding was that Etyang had received the money in February, two months before the event could be held, but the suspect used the same funds to service his loans in the bank.
On the date when the event was to be held, Etyang had only Shs15m on his account.
D/AIP Eper and D/AIP Orone had got what they had long sought for – that the money had been diverted from the intended goal.
They, therefore, started investigating Etyang on charges of embezzlement and false accounting.
D/AIP Eper and D/AIP Orone had started seeing where the problem was so they asked for an audit of the workshop to establish how the funds were appropriated. They closed their report by indicating that Shs41.9m could have been misappropriated.
Ronald Mwesigwa, an auditor from the Auditor General’s office, carried out the audit and the findings posed serious questions about how the funds were used.
Mwesigwa’s report indicated that Shs14.8m had not been accounted for. There was also no proof of claims by Etyang to have used Shs3.6m for fuel and stationery.
However, the drivers who said they drove some of the OPM staff to the venue in Karamoja confirmed to have got their allowances. The detectives patched up all the evidence and took the file the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
Seeing danger ahead, Etyang rushed to save himself.

Etyang tries to save self
Etyang wrote to the DPP pleading for a bargain to let him off the hook. In his letter dated December 2, 2014, he said he hadrefunded the money and asked the DPP to drop the case.
The officers at DPP communicated to the two detectives, but when they crosschecked with the bank, no money had been deposited.
They decided to continue with the case. The next day, Etyang ran back to his bank and withdrawal the money on his account before the police froze it.
The DPP sanctioned the charges of embezzlement and false accounting.
His case was heard in the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala. Throughout the trial, Etyang maintained he was innocent.
Etyang said he wasn’t in Karamoja, but everything was done by Steven Musinguzi and other junior officers under his unit.
He said he took Musinguzi’s word when he gave the accountability from the field and he assured him the workshop had been held and everyone who attended had been facilitated.
He said he passed the accountability document to his superior thinking that the information therein was factual.

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The commissioner is sentenced to four years in
The commissioner is sentenced to four years in jail for embezzlement.

The judgment
In October 2015, Justice Margaret Tibulya while passing her judgment, said the accused couldn’t have failed to scrutinise the accountability documents given to him by his subordinates.
“Even if we believed Musinguzi’s evidence that he compiled the accountability and gave it to the accused, it would be a shameful and an illogical proposition that the accused did not read through them before forwarding them to the head of department. It is significant that the accused did raise that as a defence,” the judge said.
Judge Tibulya added: “The evidence proves that the accused stole the money in issue under circumstances amounting to embezzlement. I accordingly find him guilty of embezzlement as charged in the first count (embezzlement)”.
“The conclusion that he read through the accountabilities and was, therefore, aware of the falsehoods is inevitable. I find him guilty of knowingly furnishing a false statement of the money as charged in count two (false accounting),” Justice Tibulya said.
Etyang was sentenced to four years in jail.

abagala@ug.nationmedia.com

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