How police bribery killed Shs165b pension scam case

L-R: Suspects in the pension scam Mr Christopher Obey, Mr Kiwanuka Kunsa and Mr David Oloka at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala recently. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

The inside story. CIID boss Grace Akullo lifts lid on how two police detectives reportedly compromised the investigation and vanished from the Force.

Kampala. The head of the police Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID) has said detectives handling the pension scam case took bribes and caused the collapse of the case where nine suspects were charged with masterminding the plunder of at least Shs165b belonging to pensioners.
Tickled by accusations that CIID messed up the case by submitting two contradicting investigation reports to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) causing confusion which derailed the prosecution of the case, Ms Grace Akullo pointed at two detectives whom she said were bribed by some of the key suspects to jeopardise the investigations.
Ms Akullo identified the detectives as Mr George Komurubuga and Mr Moses Kato. She said the duo, without her knowledge, wrote a second investigation report which contradicted the official report she had signed off, and submitted to the DPP. She said they wrote the second report “in order to account for the money they had received from the suspects.”
Ms Akullo said the operatives have since “deserted office” at CIID.
When contacted, Mr Kato said: “It is true we are no longer at CIID.”
He promised to come to Monitor offices, saying, “We too have a story to tell.” Mr Kato had not yet given more information by press time.

Suspects speak out
However, in a separate interview yesterday, Mr Komurubuga denied fleeing office and said the DPP wrote to CIID, requesting that him and Mr Kato should help with the investigations. He denied allegations of pocketing bribes to compromise the investigation, saying there wasn’t proof.
Mr Komurubuga, who said he now works with an office at the Anti-Corruption Court, said Mr William Kototyo, the CIID deputy director in charge of economic crimes, authorised their movement to the DPP’s office.
However, in a separate interview, Police spokesman Fred Enanga said both Mr Kato and Komurubuga are being investigated for professional misconduct and suspected desertion.
“The investigations will determine whether the case will be handled within the police or in criminal court,” Mr Enanga said yesterday.
In her office at Kibuli, Ms Akullo told Daily Monitor: “After ignoring several requests, I accepted to meet with Mr (Christopher) Obey and another (two of the suspects in the case) here in my office. Uncomfortable closing the office with them inside, I asked my bodyguard to sit in the corridor and I left the door open,” Ms Akullo said.
Mr Obey was the chief accountant at the Ministry of Public Service, and he was accused of masterminding the scam. It emerged that he had acquired several properties in prime areas and a freeze was slapped on the properties during the investigations to-date.

Big money involved
“They asked me why I had continued to arrest them yet they had sent me money. I asked them, ‘which money?’ They told me that they had given Shs100m to Kato and Komurubuga to bring to me and then $350,000 (about Shs1 billion) to a journalist, who I will not name, to buy me a house and bring the rest of the money to me,” Ms Akullo said.
The other suspects in the pension scam were former Public Service permanent secretary Jimmy Lwamafa, Mr Steven Kunsa Kiwanuka (former director for research and development), Mr David Japins Oloka (former senior accounts assistant) and Mr Francis Lubega (former information system analyst).
Mr Steven Lwanga (former accounts assistant at the Ministry of Public Service), Mr Peter Ssajjabi (official at the East African Community Beneficiaries Association), Mr Ishaka Sentongo (assistant manager operations at Cairo International Bank) and Ms Rahmah Nakigozi Mugeere (compliance officer at Cairo bank) complete the list.
Cairo bank later went to the High Court, and successfully blocked prosecution of the bank officials that were part of the investigations into the matter but the DPP has since appealed the matter before the Court of Appeal.
Ms Sarah Langa, the chief magistrate at the Anti-Corruption Court, on April 14 dismissed the charges against the nine suspects for lack of prosecution. For the almost two years the cases had been in the court, the prosecution had not presented a single witness.
Ms Akullo said she would only have summoned the witnesses to appear in court if the DPP had asked her to, which she says did not happen.

Contrasting reports
It is not clear why the prosecution did not take off despite the accused appearing in court on many occasions.
Addressing journalists when the case was dismissed about two weeks ago, Mr Amos Ngolobe, the deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, attributed the delay in prosecution of the cases to “several technical setbacks and challenges.”
He cited the court petition challenging the constitutionality of the operations of the magistrates at the Anti-Corruption Court which resulted in suspension of the trial of all criminal cases and matters before the Magistrates’ Courts for about seven months as one of the factors.
However, even after the Anti-Corruption Court resumed, the DPP did not continue with the prosecution of the pension case. On the day the case was dismissed, for instance, the prosecution had not brought even a single witness to court.
The chief magistrate pointed out this as a ground while giving her decision to dismiss the case. She advised the DPP to reinstate the case when they were ready to prosecute it.
On November 30, 2014, Sunday Monitor broke the story that two contradicting police reports that had been presented to DPP under the headline, “Pensions scam probe: Police give DPP contradicting reports.”
“When you read the two reports, they have contradictions in material particulars,” the story quoted DPP spokesperson Jane Okuo.
The key contradictions in the two reports, copies of which Daily Monitor has seen, relate to who was to be prosecuted. The second report attributed to Mr Kato and Mr Komurubuga recommended the exclusion of Mr Ssajjabi and Mr Lubega from the charge-sheet and also exonerated Cairo bank of wrongdoing whereas the one supervised by Ms Akullo recommended the prosecution of these suspects.
This, sources say, led to lengthy debates and disagreements, with Ms Akullo insisting there was sufficient evidence to prosecute all the people implicated in her signed report.
Mr Komurubuga while defending himself on the issue of issuing a report, behind the back of Ms Akullo, said the investigations were prosecution-led and they were doing work with the guidance of the DPP.
Mr Ngolobe tried to play down the impact of the two contradictory reports. He argued that whereas the DPP received the two parallel reports, they were not binding on them.
“The report just gives a summary of the case and the opinion of the investigator. Those reports are merely advisory in nature and are not binding on us as we can make a different opinion,” Mr Ngolobe said.
He added that the DPP had not even reached the point of choosing which of the two reports they would use in court since the hearing of the case had not started.

Other controversies
However, the DPP does not conduct its own investigations and, therefore, the success of the case largely depends on the quality of the evidence contained in the report presented to it by police.
Daily Monitor further understands that there have been some disagreements between the DPP and CIID on how to conduct the investigations. In one instance, former DPP now Justice of the Court of Appeal Richard Buteera had cleared the CIID to sample selected pensioner cases during the collection of evidence.
When the current DPP, Justice Mike Chibita, took over office, however, he asked the CIID to open a file for each of the more than 3,000 affected pensioners and beneficiaries whose money had been stolen. This process, our sources say, has been “tedious and in some cases the case files for some of the pensioners are incomplete.”
The other issue of contention is the exclusion of Mr Ssajjabi from the charge-sheet. Whereas all the recommendation letters and other bank documents for the over 3000 ghost pensioners bore Mr Ssajjabi’s signature, the specimen signature he provided during the investigations was found by a handwriting expert to be different from the signature on the payment forms.
Some parties, according to our sources, have used this to argue that Mr Ssajjabi should be excluded from the charge-sheet for lack of evidence, but Ms Akullo has insisted he is “central to the scam because he withdrew the money”.
Ms Akullo said there is a high likelihood that Mr Ssajjabi provided “a fake” specimen signature to the investigators to escape the case.
The case could well be reinstated and prosecuted successfully, but the way it has been managed sheds light on the seriousness with which corruption cases are handled.

Compiled by Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi, Anthony Wesaka, Andrew Bagala and Yasiin Mugerwa

The background

A conspiracy believed to involve officials at the ministries of Finance and Public Service, Bank of Uganda, Cairo Bank and the East African Community Beneficiaries Association (ECBA) in which at least Shs165b meant for pensioners was stolen came to light around April 2013.
This was, according to sources, after a misunderstanding about the sharing of the loot between the individuals involved, causing an internal audit of the pension accounts by the ministry of Finance. The resultant investigations led by CIID director Grace Akullo unearthed a racket.
The investigations found that bank accounts were opened up in Cairo Bank in the names of former employees of the defunct East African Community or their beneficiaries and their respective gratuity monies were channelled to the accounts. At least Shs165b had been withdrawn from Cairo Bank by the time the racket blew up, and the more than 3,000 entitled pensioners had not received a penny. Reports were afoot that the suspects had big monies to dispense in order to derail the case, which Ms Akullo now confirms.

The time line

January 29, 2013: Suspects are arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court and charged with corruption in connection with the fraud and are remanded to Luzira prison.
January 31, 2013: The suspects are released on bail and case adjourned.
March 1, 2013: Prosecution says their inquiries are still ongoing. Case is adjourned.
April 3, 2013: Prosecution asks for another month to conclude their investigations
May 3, 2013: Prosecution says inquiries are complete and case is fixed for hearing on June 17, 2013.
June 16, 2013: Prosecution backtracks on the earlier promise and says it has not completed the process of disclosing evidence to the defence lawyers. The next date is fixed on July 15, 2013.
July 15, 2013: Hearing flops after the Constitutional Court had three days earlier halted operations of the Magistrates Court attached to the Anti-Corruption Court for allegedly not being constitutional.
January 8, 2014: Court resumes and case is adjourned to March 3, 2014 for mention and hearing.
February 12, 2014: Prosecution says they had availed most of the documents to the defence. Court sets hearing date of April 3, 2014.
April 3, 2014: Prosecution says they stopped their witnesses from coming to court because the DPP decided to amend the charge sheet to include Cairo Bank and its then managing director Mohammed Tarek.
April 22 2014: All suspects do not appear in court, with Cairo Bank sending its lawyer MacDosman Kabega who seeks an adjournment at the point of plea taking. Court adjourns the matter to May 6, 2014.
April 22 2014: Mr Kabega avails court an interim order from the High Court, halting proceedings against Cairo bank before the Anti-Corruption Court. Court adjourns to June 13, 2014.
June 13, 2014: Application for a temporary injunction in the High Court was expected to be heard on July 11.
July 23, September 22 & November 3: Matter is adjourned twice.
January 20, 2015: Prosecution seeks an adjournment to formally access the ruling of the High Court. Court adjourns for two weeks.
January 29, 2015: Case fixes March 23 and April 13 for the hearing.
March 23, 2015: Trial flops and is adjourned to April 13.
April 13, 2015: Prosecution also asks court for more two weeks to allow them peruse through the records. Court rejects the request and dismisses the case for “want of prosecution”.


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.