Iron sheets scandal: Ministers speak out

 Karamoja Affairs minister Mary Gorretti Kitutu , Finance minister Matia Kasaija, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja and Mr Hilary Onek, the minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees. PHOTO/COMBO

What you need to know:

  • The ministers say they distributed the iron sheets to victims of natural disasters.

New details have emerged regarding the iron sheets scandal that has rocked the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

Monitor has learnt that some of the ministers involved in the scandal were given the iron sheets without making a formal request for the materials, while others did ask for the iron sheets.
The ministers said they gave the items to victims of disaster. 

However, the minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Mr Hilary Onek, said he was not aware of the development.

In an interview with Monitor yesterday, Finance minister Matia Kasaija said: “I didn’t request for them (iron sheets), but they were just allocated to us. I think they are sympathetic to people, especially us who have got constituencies. I am not criticising them that they offered them to us, but definitely, I never placed any application.” 

He added: “We were told ‘you go and pick the iron sheets and take to your constituencies’. The person who gave them [to us] was from OPM but I can’t remember who he was because sometimes they came through my personal assistant and sometimes they went through my political assistant based in the constituency.” 

While he said he had got more than 600 iron sheets, official records show that 300 iron sheets were recorded against his name on the official list. 

“I got the iron sheets and they have even just delivered another lot to me. There were some given to me by the minister in-charge of Bunyoro Affairs sometime back. What has caused the storm is the 600. I have even seen on my compound they have delivered another I think 200 or something because I have not counted them,” Mr Kasaija said.

“Of those 600, I delivered 400 to a particular school and the 200 are still in my store in Kibaale, which I think I will donate to churches after which I will give a written accountability. We were not told at the time they gave us these materials that we were supposed to account for them, otherwise I would have accounted for them long time ago,” he added. 

Efforts to get a comment from Ms Jennifer Namuyangu, the State Minister for Bunyoro Affairs, were futile as we were informed that she was attending a community baraza (meeting) in Rukungiri District.

Her official bodyguard, who received our phone call, said she would call back after the meeting. However, by time press time, she had not called back.

Meanwhile, Mr Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, the State minister for Agriculture, admitted that he received the iron sheets after requesting for them from OPM. 

He said he gave half of the iron sheets to a school in his constituency that was ravaged by a storm and the rest to individuals who were also affected by the storm.

“I received 300 iron sheets from the OPM on February 3 on behalf of my electorates affected by a disastrous storm that deroofed Nasuuti Primary School and neighbouring homesteads. At least 180 iron sheets were given to the school and eight iron sheets each to 15 individual victims,” he said on Twitter.

Attempts to get clarification and explanations from other recipients proved futile because they did not answer or return our calls and also did not respond to text messages by press time.

Mr Onek yesterday said: “I don’t know where the iron sheets originated from and how the ministers ended up receiving them. The good thing is the prime minister is one of the beneficiaries and let her and other ministers explain how they got the iron sheets. As for me, I have no information about that.”  

The Ministry of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees is in charge of coordinating and responding to all disasters, relief supplies and handling refugee issues in the country. 

It is also alleged that some legislators from northern Uganda also received the contentious iron sheets.
However, the minister in-charge of Northern Uganda, Ms Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, yesterday told this publication that nothing is secret about the distribution of the materials in the region.

She said she had pledged to provide 300 iron sheets to vendors in Arua through Arua Central MP Jackson Atima but has yet to deliver.

“It was me who pledged that, not him asking. I have not even delivered them yet and he is not the only one. I normally give these materials through the MPs, but for specific group of people, not for them to go and distribute to the people of their wish,” she said.

IGG takes charge
The Inspector General of Government, Ms Beti Olive Kamya, yesterday said her office will investigate the matter. 

“Regarding the iron sheets that were supposed to go to Karamoja, I want to assure you that we shall investigate this matter without fear or favour and if there are people who need to step aside, out of fear that they might tamper with the investigations, we shall ask them to step aside,” she said.

She added that they are currently “scoping” the case to find out how many people are implicated and determine who will be asked to step aside.

“It’s not just about coming out one day and just telling people to step aside, but if it is necessary to ask some of the officials to step aside, we shall not shy away to say it,” Ms Kamya said.

The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, yesterday ordered a parallel investigation into the scandal. 

The Presidential Affairs Committee headed by Adjumani District Woman MP Jessica Ababiku will commence investigations on Monday next week and is expected to report back to the House within a month.

Ms Ababiku last evening said: “Yes, the committee is going to undertake the assignment from Monday next week.”

It is not clear what the terms of reference for the investigations are. The committee chairperson yesterday remained mute on the terms.

Some of the beneficiaries

Date                Beneficiary                              Quantity     Issue Voucher Number 
25/0 1/23       Moriku Kaducu Joyce            200            8518
25/01/2023    Rebecca Kadaga                    500            8519
30/01/2023    Jacob Oboth Oboth               300            8520
30/01/2023    Rukia Nakadaama                 300            8521
30/01/2023    Matia Kasaija                         300            8,522
01/02/2023    Kitutu Mary Goretti                3,000         8524/8525
01/02/2023    Obua Dennis Hanson            300            8526
01/02/2023    Lugoloobi Amos                    300            8527
02/02/2023    Bwiino Kyakulaga                  300            8528
            Total                                                      5,500    

*Source: Memo from the Office of the Prime Minister dated February 13