Government has failed to recover Shs24b lost to unscrupulous investors in the 74km Mukono- Katosi- Nyenga road project.
Between 2013 and 2018, Uganda witnessed one of the worst cases of syndicated plunder where unscrupulous investors fleeced government of Shs24b in forged guarantees in a contract for a road that was to be constructed at $43m (about Shs160b). The money was advanced to Eutaw, an elusive contractor.
Investigations found collusion between different government officials, including ministers, banks, insurance companies and foreign contractors. In August 2018, Joe Ssemugooma, the former Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) director of finance and administration; and Wilberforce Senjako, the former Unra regional accountant, were sentenced to five years in jail over the scandal. Apollo Senkeeto, alias Mark Kalyesubula, the Eutaw representative in Uganda, was sentenced to 10 years in prison over the matter.
However, a number of other players involved in the scandal could not be investigated because they are not in Uganda.
While opening a training and annual general meeting for members of Asset Recovery Inter Agency Network for Eastern Africa (ARINEA) in Kampala yesterday, the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Justice Irene Mulyagonja, said the asset recovery has proved a nightmare. She said while convictions were secured for the offenders in Uganda, their foreign-based principals have evaded justice.
“The IG investigations disclosed a network involving the Ministry of Works and Transport, the executives of the Uganda National Roads Authority, a private banker, an insurance firm, two private companies from the USA and China and a local businessman as a front for the US-based company. While we managed to investigate, prosecute and have some people involved convicted, the Shs24b paid out was largely dissipated,” she said.
Justice Mulyagonja said the procedures for recovering such money is complicated. She said while they were able to successfully prove that those in Uganda were guilty of corruption, the same could not be done to individuals outside the country.
“In our case in Katosi, the crime was successfully proved against the people in Uganda, it was not proved against the people who took the money to the US,” she said.
“There is no way you can get that money from US unless you take other proceedings in the US for recovery of that money. Recovering assets based on criminal proceedings is very complicated because you must prove the crime beyond reasonable doubt and then follow the money where it has been taken and those jurisdictions are often not cooperative,” the IGG added.
Justice Mulyagonja said crime has become a highly syndicated activity, which needs concerted effort by different actors.
She challenged financial crime investigators to work as a team across the region to combat the vice.
“Corruption now covers grand syndicated schemes where controls put in place by government are deliberately evaded in a systematic way using networks of corrupt government officials and the private sector. My experience is that it has evolved to defeat the mechanisms adopted in fighting it,” she added.
Justice Mulyagonja said Uganda is losing billions of shillings through corruption in public procurement and that more should be done to combat the vice. She said this kind of haemorrhage of public funds and subsequently, the procurement of substandard goods and services presents one of the biggest challenges the countries are facing.
“As a region, we must begin to follow the loot, trace it and deny the culprits the benefits of using it. We must be ready to continue evolving and be one step ahead of the culprits. We must be ready to make the necessary changes in our laws, in detection, and in enhanced strategies,” she said.