Man buried with Shs200m bribe for God

Monday January 09 2017
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Charles Obong asked his relatives to bury him with huge sums of money.

Lira. The hereafter, more so meeting the Creator on Judgement Day, is without a doubt a spine-chilling thought.
This was the terror-provoking imagination that tormented a former Public Service officer who saved more than Shs200 million to bribe the Almighty Father on Judgement Day so He could forgive his earthly sins.
Charles Obong, 52, who worked as a senior personnel officer in the ministry of Public Service from 2006 to 2016, reportedly wanted to use the cash to redeem his soul before God.
Obong died on December 17, 2016, after a long illness and was buried at his ancestral home at Adag-ani village, Bar-pii parish, Aromo Sub-county in Lira District, on Christmas Eve.
Obong was buried in a metallic coffin estimated to have cost Shs20m.
The Aromo Sub-county chairman, Mr David Elic, said his brother-in-law had left behind a Will, dictating that upon his death, his wife Ms Margaret Obong should deposit huge sums of money in his coffin.
He planned to convey the money to God as an offertory so that the Almighty Father could forgive his sins and save him from hellfire.
He reportedly also instructed his brother Justin Ngole and sister Hellen Aber to bear witness to ensure his wife follows his testament to the letter and secure the money in his coffin.
But relatives and local leaders who attended the deceased’s sendoff said the Will was mute on the sins Obong wanted to make amends for as he served in public office, including at the Public Service ministry.
Public service has been

Court finds Lwamafa, Obey, Kunsa guilty of fraud

Friday November 11 2016

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Anti Corruption Court in Kampala has found three former top employees of ministry of public service including Jimmy Lwamafa, the ex-permanent secretary guilty of all the ten charges slapped against them by the state.
Presiding judge, Lawrence Gidudu summarised in his ruling that the fraud to steal the Shs88.2 billion was hatched in the public service, smoothened in finance ministry and executed in Cairo bank where the money was finally paid out to ghost pensioners.

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Pension scam: Court assessors advise judge to acquit Lwamafa, Obey

Friday September 30 2016

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KAMPALA. Three top suspects in the multi-billion public service pension scandal could walk free in less than two months if Justice Lawrence Gidudu accepts the advice of court assessors.
On Friday morning, the assessors advised the head of Anti-Corruption Court to acquit the former permanent secretary in the public service ministry, Jimmy Lwamafa; Christopher Obey, former principal accountant and Stephen Kiwanuka Kunsa, the former director research and development and other accused.
The three along with others are accused of perpetrating the loss of Shs88.2 billion.

Justice Gidudu has set November 11 for judgement on a matter which has running for the last one year.
The court assessors’ opinion is a lay man’s interpretation of a criminal matter, which though not binding, has on occasion indicated how a suit will be decided.
Mr Vincent Ferrer and Mr Stanley Kurung yesterday advised court that, in their opinion as assessors, the prosecution did not prove that the suspects caused government a financial loss.
Mr Ferrer read out the joint opinion in which they argued that evidence presented showed that the money in question was paid to commercial banks, in particular Cairo Bank. He wondered why the banks were never investigated.

He said that if the money was lost, then the fraud originated from the banks and that the three suspects were never linked to it.
The courts assessors observed that the head of the CID, Ms Grace Akullo, who unearthed the alleged fraud of Shs165 billion in the public service ministry, was never called to testify.
“In the ministry’s work plans, the item NSSF was not there and this confusion must have been introduced by Mr Josses Tegyeza onto the payment system as he had the mandate to ensure that there were no entry errors into the payment system...” Mr Ferrer said.

“It’s therefore clear to us that if at all there was any fraud, it originated from the Cairo Bank and it can’t be linked to the accused persons.”
“It’s therefore our opinion that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the ten charges against the suspects and I pray that you acquit them...”
The alleged crime took place over two financial years of 2010/11 and 2011/12 with the suspects alleged budgeting for NSSF contributions, well knowing that civil servants don’t contribute to the Fund.

The other information which the assessors relied on was the testimony of former acting permanent secretary in the public ministry Ms Adah Kabarokole Muwanga. Ms Muwanga testified that once there is a query in the payment schedules in a given financial year, then payment would not be effected the following financial year.
The assessors observed that since the finance ministry released money to public service in the following financial year of 2011/12, it then implied that there was no query in the first financial year of 2010/11.
The fate of the suspects, who are currently held at Luzira Prison, now lies in the hands of the judge.

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Other convicts are Christopher Obey, the ex-principal accountant in the pensions department and Mr Stephen Kiwanuka Kunsa, the ex-director research and development.

The three along with others are accused of perpetrating the loss of Shs88.2 billion.

which cost government about Shs257 billion. The money was stolen by senior government officials.
But Mr Obong’s Will was violated as his body was exhumed last Saturday and the money withdrawn from the grave and his would-be planned penitence before God frustrated.
Somehow, Mr Obong’s clan members of Okii me Okabo, got wind of the planned heavenly restitution and forced his wife to reveal everything during a heated meeting at the home of the deceased’s father, Mr Meceli Ogwal, last Saturday.
Obong’s wife reportedly confessed that her husband had told her to bury him with huge sums of cash, which he would carry to heaven to offer God on Judgement Day. Ms Obong, however, declined to reveal the sums of money her husband asked he be buried along with.
Ms Obong further stunned clan elders when she said her husband had also instructed her to ensure Mr Ngole, her brother-in-law, and Ms Aber, her sister-in-law, should witness her placing the money in the coffin.
The witnesses (Mr Ngole and Ms Aber) also confessed that their brother was buried with countless sums of money.
The widow, who had hired funeral services from Kampala to open up the grave to put in more money, revealed she had in her possession another Shs180 million which she intended to stash in the coffin.
During the Saturday’s meeting, the Okii of Okabo clan chief, Mr Mike Gulu, ordered the exhumation of the body forthwith.
And when the clan members started exhuming the deceased’s body, Ms Obong refused to hand over the Shs180 million top-up and reportedly sped off in her car towards Lira Town.

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Shs6b oil bonanza: The inside story

Thursday January 05 2017

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KAMPALA. The decisive arrangement to reward 42 government officials with Shs6b was hatched during a May 17, 2015 meeting between President Museveni and Ms Doris Akol, the Commissioner General Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), correspondences that have emerged indicate.
The documents were presented by a group of nine MPs led by the Usuk County MP, Mr Peter Ogwang, to the press.
During the meeting at the President’s country home in Rwakitura in Kiruhura District, Ms Akol was directed by the President to recommend an “adequate reward” for the team that successfully represented Uganda in the Capital Gains Tax Case (CGT) against Heritage Oil and Gas.

Following the meeting, Ms Akol, who, prior to that headed URA’s legal department that led the court battles against both Tullow and Heritage, wrote a letter on June 26, 2015 to the President recommending that Shs6b be gifted to the team, with Shs2.3b deducted as tax, leaving Shs3.642b as the net take home for the officials. Ms Akol was appointed URA Commissioner General in October 2014,
In her letter, Ms Akol defended what she termed as the “philosophy behind the recommended reward”, that she referred to as the “presidential handshake”, arguing that the “reward will enable the beneficiaries to use the funds for something tangible.”

“…the amount recommended as a reward is an amount that will enable the beneficiaries use the funds for something tangible i.e. to leave a legacy to remind them and their offspring of their contribution to the nation. For instance, the recommended amount could enable one to either acquire a decent plot of land, pay a deposit on a mortgage or perhaps facilitate finishes on a home,” Ms Akol wrote in her letter to the President.
Ms Akol copied her letter to Finance minister Matia Kasaija, Energy minister Irene Muloni and the then Attorney General Fred Ruhindi. Mr Ruhindi and Mr Kasaija had just assumed office three months earlier following a mini-Cabinet reshuffle that year.

“I believe it will be motivation sufficient for them to gallantly face future challenges and bring victory to our nation. The amount proposed contributes less than 1 per cent of the amount in the award and is less than 50 per cent of the costs awarded to government,” Ms Akol adds in her letter.

Ms Akol followed her letter with a directive that the Shs6b be re-allocated from the URA tax refund budget to the URA expenditure budget to clear the beneficiaries, ordering that the re-allocation be treated as supplementary expenditure.
“Since payment to the beneficiaries will be treated as an expense to URA, the additional funds for the expenditure from the re-allocation is also a supplementary budget to URA for which your ministry should treat as a supplementary,” Ms Akol wrote in a follow-up directive to the Finance minister dated May 5, 2016.
Ms Akol’s letter set the process in motion as it was followed by a letter from Mr Museveni directing Mr Kasaija to pay the proposed Shs6b to the officials who had been variously involved in the Heritage Oil vs Uganda Capital Gains Tax (CGT) case.

“As you are aware, the government of Uganda won a case against Heritage Oil Limited in London arbitration and was awarded $434m (about Shs1.5 trillion). I met with a team of officials that handled that case and they requested to be considered for a reward in appreciation of the work done. Given the amount of money that was recovered, it was agreed that the government pays them some money as a token of appreciation,” Mr Museveni wrote.
He added: “I therefore direct that the team of 42 government officials be paid Shs6b. The applicable taxes should be deducted,” the President added.
Insider sources, however, say more than 42 officials were paid.
Mr Museveni’s letter was copied to the vice president, prime minister, Attorney General, Secretary to the Treasury and the Commissioner General, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi tried in vain to push the payments to the 2016/17 FY, arguing that “supplementary funding is not feasible given that we have already hit the 3 per cent supplementary legal requirement for 2015/16 FY.” Mr Muhakanizi’s reservations were over-ruled by advise contained in a November 1, 2016 letter from the Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, arguing that the Shs6b payment can be “post-audited.”
Yesterday, Mr Muwanga told journalists at Parliament that he will conduct an audit in the Shs6b release.
The Shs6b was subsequently wired to the accounts of the select 42 officials in August last year. The team led by Ms Akol, who had been designated as “accounting officer” for the money, then moved to categorise the officials into three groups—Core, Noncore and Support Staff—with the official in each group getting contribution on the basis of their involvement in the case.
Sources familiar with the matter told this newspaper that in order to spread the risk in case of any, money was also wired to officials who were involved with the case at some point but had moved on to other responsibilities. Among these include the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) executive director Jennifer Musisi who received Sh121 million, the late former Finance permanent secretary Chris Kasami on whose account was reportedly wired Shs93 million and Shs242 million was wired to former URA commissioner general Allen Kagina, who assumed role of Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) executive director in May 2015.
During the hatching of the plot spearheaded by URA, sources added, there was a lot of divided opinion on whether public servants should reward themselves and if it won’t be interpreted as “betraying the public”, but some officials [names withheld] pressed to be paid their “honorarium”, arguing there was no law against it, after all.
One top official [names withheld], sources familiar with the matter, said in one of the meetings with peers, argued that “this was not going to be the greatest” nor “the first loss” to tax-payers, citing previous high profile corruption cases such as the Katosi Road scandal, which was making headlines at the time in which government was conned of Shs24 billion and will never be recovered, the Shs64b Office of the Prime Minister scandal and Shs165b pension scam.
“That money is ours and was blessed by the President to be given to us,” the official reportedly said, according to our sources.
The story, since becoming public, has stirred some back and forth frothing even within government circles, with no official willing to come out to comment on it publically. Several officials referred this newspaper to Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda for “further explanation” because the matter was actually authorised at Cabinet level.
Dr Rugunda, did not pick up neither returned our calls nor responded to our message for two days, claiming he was in meetings.
Former Attorney General Ruhindi, on Tuesday, said even before he was named for the office in March 2015, he found the plans for payout already in place and referred this newspaper to his predecessor, Mr Peter Nyombi, who was not readily available for comment.
The MPs, who presented the documents yesterday, also demanded that the officials refund the money. The matter will come to Parliament when it re-convenes from the Christmas break next week on Tuesday.

The tax case
After Heritage, in August 2010, sold its 50 per cent interest in in Uganda’s oil fields (exploration blocks 1 and 3A in the Albertine Graben) at $1.5 billion (Shs5 trillion) to Tullow Uganda Ltd, yielding the first biggest windfall of the country’s nascent petroleum sector at the time, URA slapped a $404 million (Shs1.4 trilion) Capital Gains Tax on the transaction.
The tax dispute became a protracted legal battle and different courts, including a Ugandan Tax Appeal Tribunal and a commercial court in London combined took four years to resolve it. A recent expose by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed that Heritage knew beforehand of the imminent tax liability weeks before it was officially imposed and contracted tax accountants and lawyers to fight it off as unwarranted and illegal.
Heritage settled for two options: tackle the levy head-on and, on failing, move the business and assets to a tax haven with the professional help of lawyers and accountants. But because Tullow, as the buyer had yet to pay Heritage, government threatened not to renew its exploration licences, which were due to expire, unless it deducted and remitted the equivalent Capital Gains Tax.
After a hard bargain, in April 2011, Tullow capitulated and sent to government $121 million (Shs403b), an equivalent of a 30 per cent threshold down payment, antecedent to filing of tax appeals under the country’s laws. The balance of $283 million (Shs943b) was deposited on an escrow account with Standard Chartered Bank in London, pending resolution of the tax dispute that ended in 2013.
Another $30 million (Shs100b) was separately assessed on a $100 million that Heritage additionally paid Tullow Uganda Ltd as cash settlement arising from a breach of the companies’ Sharing and Production Agreement.
Heriatge later opposed these tax payments as “collusion” between Tullow and the Ugandan government, resulting in the London case that Justice Burton on June 14, 2013, decided in Tullow’s favour.
In another case, URA in June 2015 settled for $250m (Shs824b) from Tullow after three years of legal battles over Capital Gains Taxes when the latter sold 66.66 per cent of its stake to CNOOC and TOTAL for $2.9b, making it the largest transaction to date in Uganda’s history against the $142m that Tullow had been arguing was the right tax assessment.

Impunity?

One top official [names withheld], sources familiar with the matter, said in one of the meetings with peers, argued that “this was not going to be the greatest” nor “the first loss” to tax payers, citing previous high profile corruption cases such as the Katosi Road scandal, which was making headlines at the time in which government was conned of Shs24 billion and will never be recovered, the Shs64b Office of the Prime Minister scandal and Shs165b pension scam.
“That money is ours and was blessed by the President to be given to us,” the official reportedly said, according to our sources.

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Witnesses
Mr Elic, who witnessed the exhumation of his brother-in-law’s body, confirmed that when the coffin was opened, US$ 5,700, in the denomination of 100 notes, was found in the coffin. The money was removed and was being kept with the Okii of Okabo clan leader.

“The funeral service van also left hurriedly with the grave construction material when the situation became very tense,” Mr Elic added.
The area LC3 councillor, Richard Ecel, confirmed the exhumation. “I witnessed everything because I was invited there officially. When the clan elders ordered the exhumation, the widow resisted but was overpowered and eventually the body was exhumed and the money recovered from the coffin.”
Mr Jimmy Maxwell Auci, the chairperson of Adag-ani village, said the body was exhumed after the widow revealed she had placed some money in the coffin used to bury her late husband.
The body was reburied on Saturday evening and grave reconstructed on Sunday.

According to Mr Gulu, burying a person with money is a taboo among the Langi.
When contacted, Mr Ngole said his elder brother told him that he had left behind more than Shs6 billion.
“He did not tell me where the money was kept, but his wife had told me on phone prior to Saturday’s incident that she would bring again more Shs300 million to add in the coffin so that my brother could also enjoy,” Mr Ngole told Daily Monitor on phone on Sunday.

“When she was placing the first batch of money, the woman called me to witness it but I could not inform my people. I was afraid they could harm her but I broke the silence after I consulted widely.”
According to Mr Ngole, his brother was earning a salary of more than Shs3 million monthly. His widow works at Entebbe Airport as a principal immigration officer.
The Rev Joel Agel Awio clarified that no amount of money can buy eternal life, adding that God cannot accept such a golden handshake.

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“The price for eternal life is the blood of Jesus. If you want your sins to be forgiven, do it when you are still alive,” the Anglican priest counselled.
Mr Dila Maxwell, the officer in charge of Aromo Police Post, said the widow admitted to having placed the money and clothes the deceased loved in the coffin.
He said the money was worth about Shs20.7 million.
The widow could not be reached for a comment by press time while Mr Ngole, her brother in-law, did not pick up our repeated calls to his mobile phone.

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