What you need to know:
- Mr Damien Akankwasa was found guilty of abuse of office after he sold 10,000 eucalyptus poles from Mwenge Forest Reserve at Shs10,000 each, instead of Shs20,000 despite protests from the director of plantations.
The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal in which former National Forestry Authority (NFA) executive director, Mr Damian Akankwasa was challenging his sentence after he was convicted of selling eucalyptus poles at half price without following the procurement regulations.
In a unanimous judgment, a panel of five judges ruled that Mr Akankwas’s appeal did have merit since he did not raise a matter of public importance to warrant him to appeal.
The judges; Rubby Opio-Aweri, Prof. Lillian Tibatemwa, Paul Mugamba, Ezekiel MUhnguzi and Mike Chibita insisted that NFA is a statutory body and therefore, bound to follow procedures under the PPDA.
“We therefore, do not agree with the counsel for the appellant that where there are two laws and the accused chooses to follow one, he/she should not be convicted,” the judges ruled.
Mr Akankwasa was found guilty of abuse of office after he sold 10,000 eucalyptus poles from Mwenge Forest Reserve at Shs10,000 each, instead of Shs20,000 despite protests from the director of plantations.
The Anticorruption Court at Kololo jailed Mr Akankwsa for two years after he was convicted before a magistrate. However, the same court acquitted Mr Akankwasa of the offence of causing financial loss to NFA.
Through his lawyers, Mr Akankwasa had appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that he should not have been convicted of abuse of office because he chose to follow the NFA Act instead of the PPDA.
But the Supreme Court justices declined to fault the lower courts, arguing that they properly applied the evidence to the facts which shows that Mr Akankwasa did not involve the NFA Price Committee and the contracts committee before selling the poles.
“We agree with the Court of Appeal finding that this is a question of fact and law. We wish to add that the offence of abuse of office and the offence of causing financial loss are two different offences with quite different ingredients to be proved before an accused person is convicted. Evidence of a witness or witnesses may fail to prove one offence but be sufficient to prove another offence beyond reasonable doubt,” the justices ruled.
Mr Akankwasa had appealed against the punishment citing that being the executive director by then, he had the powers under the NFA Act to make any sales at any amount and it is not questionable.
“The sale of trees does not require any application under the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets because it is governed by a different regime,” Mr Akankwasa said.
According to him “Prosecution did not prove that the quality of the forest product in Mwenge plantation is the same as the one in Lendu in Zombo District which was sold at Shs20,000 each.”
But the state argued that the contracts committee at NFA is responsible for pricing in any transaction which Mr Akakwasa was aware of.
“The National Forestry and Tree Planting emphasizes fair, open competitive and transparency process in any disposal or procurement in order to achieve value for money. In this case it was through restrictive biding,” reads the submissions adding on that,” There was no competition and value for money.”
Akankwasa committed the offence between April 7 and May 23, 2008, while he was still serving as NFA executive director without consulting the procurement and contracts committees.
He was also accused of causing government a loss of about Shs100m in the said transaction when NFA was selling similar trees in forest reserves such as Lendu in Zombo District to other buyers at Shs20, 000 each.