Herbert Kabafunzaki, a deputy labour minister facing corruption charges, is out on bail. He was on Wednesday granted a sh5 million cash bail by the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala after spending a night in Luzira Prison on charges of Corruption and Conspiracy to commit a felony.
Chief Magistrate Agnes Alum granted him bail on condition that he also deposits in court his diplomatic passport and his land title located at Ndejje in Kampala.
The magistrate ruled that Kabafunzaki is charged with bailable offences, is an MP with a fixed place of residence and therefore he should not be denied his constitutional right on the mere speculation of the state that he is likely to interfere with prosecution witnesses.
Kabafunzaki is jointly charged with his political assistant Brian Mugabo and an interior designer Bruce Lubowa.
Kabafunzaki and Lubowa denied the offence, but Mugabo, in a bid to escape punishment, admitted having hidden sh5m that he said he knew had been accepted by the Minister as a bribe.
The incident happened at Serena Hotel in Kampala on April 8, where the complainant Mohammed Hamid an investor and the chairperson of AYA Group allegedly bribed them in order to clear his name of allegations of sexual harassment by a former employee.
The matter has now been adjourned to April 19 when convict Mugabo will be sentenced while Kabafunzaki will return to court for mention of his case. Lubowa returns to court April 13, for a ruling on his bail application.
Minister’s aide asks court for pardon in exchange for his testimony
The convicted political assistant to Kabafunzaki asked court to give him a lenient sentence saying he is willing to become a state witness. Brain Mugabo,21 pleaded guilty to having hidden sh5m.
According to Prosecution’s Barbra Kauma, Mugabo hid an envelope that contained the alleged bribe money which the minister had allegedly received.
‘New war on corruption’
Uganda’s war on corruption took a new turn this week when Uganda’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday charged the government minister with graft for allegedly taking a bribe from a businessman in exchange for clearing him of sexual harassment charges.
Top prosecutor Mike Chibita charged him with two counts of graft in an anti-corruption court in the capital Kampala.
Kabafunzaki is accused of receiving a five million shilling ($1,381, 1,300 euros) bribe from a Sudanese businessman trying to rid himself of sexual harassment charges laid by a former employee, according to a charge sheet seen by AFP.
Kabafunzaki’s arrest on Saturday was personally ordered by President Yoweri Museveni, said the leader’s press secretary Don Wanyama.
“The president was informed about the minister and he directed the police to take action. The police laid a trap and arrested the minister as he was receiving the bribe,” Wanyama said.
Allegations of official corruption are common in the East African country, which ranks 151 out of 175 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index.
Last week, Museveni said the country’s finance ministry was staffed by “thieving officials,” after two high-ranking employees were arrested for allegedly soliciting a $330,000 bribe from a Chinese investor.
The government has recently prosecuted several public officers on corruption allegations but netted few convictions.
Anti-graft advocates hailed the charges against Kabafunzaki but said the government needs to do more to cut down on bribery.
“Government has to go an extra mile to ensure all corruption cases are exposed and whoever is found guilty is dealt with in accordance with the law,” said Cissy Kagaba, head of Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda.
“Ugandan tax payers lose billions of shillings through bribery and corrupt tendencies, but often culprits go scot-free.”
Country director for watchdog group Transparency International Peter Wandera questioned Museveni’s personal intervention in the case, saying it weakened rule-of-law overall.
“One wonders, have people lost interest in the system instead of going to the inspector general of government, or the police, they report to the president?” Wandera said.