Covid relief food: Five interdicted OPM staff back to work

A woman carries a bag of donated flour in Nanyidik Village, Rupa Sub-county, in Moroto District on April 21, 2020, during the Covid-19 induced lockdown. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The interdiction was lifted following a legal opinion by the Solicitor General.

Five out of the nine staff of the Office of the Prime Minister, who were interdicted in connection with quoting higher prices for Covid-19 relief food suppliers, have been asked to return to work.

The interdiction of the five officials was lifted following a legal opinion rendered by the office of the Solicitor General of how their continued interdiction, which was way beyond six months, had become illegal.

The office of the Solicitor General on February 11 opined that the interdiction should be lifted given that the officials have not appeared before courts of law on any of the charges and the period of six months within which the charges should have been brought elapsed on February 3 as provided for under the Public Service Commission regulations.

They include Mr Daudi Bukomooko (Principal Assistant Secretary), Ms Agnes Katembeko (Senior Procurement Officer), Ms Esther Nalubega Majorie Odongo (Procurement Officer), Mr Henry Tumwine (Internal Auditor), and Mr Rodney Roy Oriokot (Internal Auditor).

Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary in the OPM, said he has since implemented the legal opinion of the Solicitor General’s office.

“Actually, it was me who sought for the said legal guidance when I assumed office. So it was started by me and I got the legal guidance, which I have implemented. Some of them are back into office and are working.

We follow the laws of Uganda to promote peoples’ rights,” Mr Muhakanizi said yesterday.
In April 2020, nine top officials from the OPM were arrested and handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department by the Anti-Corruption Unit of State House for their alleged role in inflating prices for Covid-19 relief food.

Four staff; Ms Christine Guwatudde Kintu (Permanent Secretary), Mr Joel Wanjala (the accounting officer), Mr Fred Lutimba (the Assistant Commissioner Procurement, and the Commissioner Disaster Management), and Mr Martin Owor (the head of Covid-19 Relief Management), were charged before the Anti-Corruption Court.

They were charged over allegations of having rejected prequalified suppliers who were offering lower prices for maize and beans and instead awarded contracts to companies that accepted the inflated figures. 

However, in August last year, the DPP dropped the charges of abuse of office, fraudulent false accounting and corruption against the four top OPM officials and freed them. The five officers were never taken to court but were instead interdicted.

Background 
The arrest of the officials by then head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Lt Col Edith Nakalema, followed directives from President Museveni to investigate the fraud related to Covid-19 food procurement. 

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