Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Court of Appeal has upheld an order requiring three former employees of the Ministry of Public Service to compensate the government upon their conviction in the infamous pension scam.
The three Jimmy Lwamafa, the former Permanent Secretary, Commissioner in Charge of Compensation Stephen Kiwanuka Kunsa and the Principal Accountant Christopher Obey, were in 2016, convicted of abuse of office, false accounting, causing financial loss, diversion of public funds and conspiracy to defraud.
The conviction was in relation to the irregular budgeting of 88.2 billion Shillings during the financial years 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 as civil servants contribution to the National Social Security Fund-NSSF well knowing that government workers are not required to contribute to NSSF.
The deal was reportedly hatched at the Public Service Ministry then through the Ministry of Finance and later executed through Cairo Bank which paid out the money to ghosts of pensioners.
As a result, Lwamafa was sentenced to a seven-year jail term, Kunsa was jailed for five years and Obey for 10 years. They were also ordered to compensate Government sh50 billion out of the diverted money.
But they challenged the convictions and sentences at the Court of Appeal through their lawyers led by Evans Ochieng and Nsubuga Mubiru. In the appeal, the convicts said that Justice Gidudu erred in law and fact when he failed to properly evaluate the evidence on record and came to a wrong conclusion.
However, a Panel comprising of the Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo, Elizabeth Musoke and Percy Tuhaise today upheld the convictions and also substituted sentences for Lwamafa and Kunsa. Lwamafa’s sentence has been reduced from seven to four years, Kunsa from five to three years.
The panel stated that the Antic Corruption Court Judge never considered mitigating factors for Kunsa, who was sick at the time of his conviction whereas Lwamafa’ s sentence has been found to have been harsh and excessive. But the Judges declined to reduce Obey’s sentence saying there was no justifiable argument for quashing the sentence.
The Judges ruled that the lower court gave the convicts a very lenient compensation order and observed that they would have ordered for more compensation if the Directorate of Public Prosecutions had appealed against Justice Gidudu’s order to refund only 50 billion Shillings.
State Prosecutor Emily Mutoni welcomed the decision. But John Isabirye, one of the lawyers representing the appellants said they would take the matter to the supreme court.
All the appellants who have been in Luzira Prison appeared in court and took to the dock as the judgement was being read by the Court of Appeal Registrar, Ayebare Thaddeus Tumwebaze. But Kunsa could hardly stand, due to the after-effects of a stroke that he recently suffered.
Meanwhile, the trio is still battling sentences ranging from nine to ten years handed to them in 2018 by Justice Margaret Tibulya for diversion of 15 billion Shillings claiming that it was meant for Legal Fees to execute a case involving pensioners.