KAMPALA- The botched Nsimbe Estate Housing Project by the National Security Fund has again come to haunt the pension body’s former board chairman, Mr Geoffrey Onegi-Obel.
Mr Onegi-Obel was Friday charged and remanded to Luzira prison in connection to the failed project.
Mr Onegi-Obel appeared before the Anti-Corruption Court and denied charges of abuse of office and causing a financial loss of about Shs8bn to the fund.
He was at the same time committed to the High Court to stand trial.
However, Chief Magistrate Sarah Langa Siu agreed with prosecution (Inspector General of Government) to deny Mr Onegi-Obel bail.
This was after the submission of Mr Sydney Asubo, the Director Legal Affairs at the Inspectorate of Government that Mr Onegi-Obel was charged afresh and committed to the High Court for trial.
The same charges that Mr Onegi-Obel was charged with on Friday were dismissed in 2010 for failure by the prosecution (IGG) to prosecute them. However, the IGG later reinstated the same charges.
“In light of the above, the Sam Kutesa bail reference case is distinguishable from this present one, the accused is advised to apply for bail before the High Court and he is accordingly remanded to Luzira prison following his committal,” ruled Ms Langa
Mr Onegi-Obel’s lawyer Francis Gimara unsuccessfully cited the famous Sam Kutesa case that states that once a suspect is out on bail and later he/she is committed to the High Court for trial, his/her bail does not elapse.
But in this particular case of Mr Onegi-Obel, court agreed with the prosecution that his old case had been dismissed and the Shs3 million he paid to bailed was refunded meaning that he is facing fresh charges.
According to the charge sheet, Mr Onegi-Obel, between 2003 and 2005, while he was the board chairman of NSSF, did an arbitrary act when he allegedly floated on behalf NSSF an illegal private business entity known as Premier Developments Ltd as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which he and others used to enter into a joint venture with a private company Mugoya Estates Ltd. Court records also show that Mr Onegi-Obel did not ensure financial viability of the value of the money for the investment and in flagrant violation of the provisions of the NSSF Act.
The prosecution further alleges that the joint venture between NSSF through Premier Developments and Mugoya Estates, the construction firm that was contracted to carry out the design and construction of the housing units at Nsimbe Estate was procured without any competitive bidding and that the money paid to do the construction was in excess.
The excess money extended to Mugoya Estates was over Shs5 billion.
This was after the Ministry of Works, Housing and Communication assed the development at the Nsimbe project after cessation of the operations and determined that the works executed were worth Shs1.2 billion and yet the construction firm had received over Shs6.8 billion.
Mr Onegi-Obel was initially jointly charged with Mr Leonard Mpuuma, a former managing director of the Fund, former Labour Minister Zoe Bakoko Bakoru, who is in exile in the US and Mr James Isabirye, a businessman.
However, in March 2008, the charges against Mr Mpuuma were dropped after he pleaded guilty to causing a financial loss of Shs100 million and he was fined.