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Museveni orders trial of CHOGM suspects

By John Njoroge

The success of CHOGM [Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting] notwithstanding, I do not condone the actions of those public officials who abused procedures and mismanaged any resources allocated to them for the event. The Government will ensure that the necessary punitive action is taken against officials abusing rules and regulations.This lack of seriousness must stop forthwith.

I am going to hold accountable every single accounting officer, including permanent secretaries, for the actions or inaction of their officers,” President Museveni wrote to Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi on March 11, 2010.

On December 31, 2009 Museveni had hosted government officials, diplomats and other VIPs at an end of year dinner at State House Entebbe and warned that anyone who had dipped their hands into the CHOGM cash would answer. Therefore when the president wrote to Nsibambi on March 11 this year, it was like a follow up of his promise at the December 31 dinner.

Governments lack of action on the report is being perceived as if we are accomplices to the misdeeds. I have looked at the Auditor Generals report and a matrix showing the actions that can be taken and I find no problem with it.

“I am, therefore, instructing you to cause disciplinary and other action against officials who were found not to have followed financial and procurement rules and regulations as provided for in the Public Service Standing Order.By copy of this letter, I am further requesting the Inspector General of Government and the Director of Public Prosecutions to carry out more investigations and bring the culprits to book. All these actions should be taken not later than end of April 2010, Museveni directed Nsibambi.

The president copied his letter to all cabinet ministers, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the Director of Public prosecutions (DPP).

Despite the presidents letter, neither Nsibambi nor the IGG has taken action on the CHOGM suspects.

We are waiting for additional information from PAC [Public accounts Committee] before we proceed, the IGG Raphael Baku told The Independent. PAC also investigated the alleged misappropriation of CHOGM funds and tabled its report in parliament where its pending debate.

Once parliament officially gives the office of the IGG this report, we will analyse it to see whether there is relevant, credible and enough evidence to prosecute the culprits mentioned. They will have to show us the annex documents mentioned in the report. This is what we will use to probe deeper, Baku says. He said, however, that his office would act regardless of what parliament says because the IGG operates independently.

People implicated in the CHOGM scandal

Vice President Gilbert Bukenya

The PAC accuses Bukenya of influence peddling and causing financial loss to the government. As chairperson of the CHOGM Cabinet Sub-Committee, Bukenya allegedly ordered the procurement of luxurious BMW cars to transport the summit delegates thereby flouting the procurement rule of competitive bidding.

PAC recommended that he be held personally liable for the loss of over Shs6 billion, flouting PPDA law and abuse of office. Bukenya is also accused of influencing the construction and extension of Garuga Road leading to his hotel in Entebbe at Shs200 million. He is also said to be responsible for Shs1.9 billion paid out as capitalisation to Serena Hotel for remodeling. Even as this was happening, Bukenya did not disclose to President Museveni that an additional Shs13.9 billion had been paid to Speke Resort Munyonyo for the same purpose.

On account of these accusations, if Bukenya is taken to the Anti-Corruption Court, he faces charges of causing financial loss and abuse of office which attract up to 14 and seven years in jail on conviction.

Works Minister John Nasasira

Like Bukenya, Nasasira is accused of violating procurement procedures in favour of BMW company, which supplied cars for the summit. He allegedly verbally instructed the ministry’s Accounting to halt the process, citing a directive of the cabinet Sub-Committee which was chaired by Bukenya. He is also accused of authorising Shs302m for the construction of Garuga Road to Bukenya’s hotel, the road leading to Enkombe apartments in Mbuya which belong to Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, Golf Course road parking and Access Road to Entebbe municipality both at Shs176m. Others are Salaama road leading to private residences of former Finance Minister Ezra Suruma’s and State Minister for Local Government Mwesigwa Rukutana at Shs362m from the CHOGM budget. PAC recommends that Nasasira be reprimanded for allowing astronomical variations without due justification and process.

Works State Minister John Byabagambi

Like Nasasira, Byabagambi is accused of flouting PPDA Laws and causing a financial loss of Shs1.7bn to government. While inspecting roads in Entebbe Municipality Byabagambi is said to have directed the consultant Engineers (M/S Multiplan) to carry out additional works. He did this outside the law and in the total disregard of the accounting officer.  He defended his action before PAC.

Eng. Bagonza

Bagonza oversaw additional un-authorised works on Entebbe municipal roads prior to CHOGM which made the Ministry of Works to spend an extra Shs1.7 billion. He was on May 21 convicted by the Anti-Corruption Court for abuse of office and causing financial loss to government.

Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa

Kutesa is said to have influenced procurement procedures to favour BMW. EuropCar-Intercar joint bid was later chosen by Motorcase Uganda to supply the BMW cars to government. Investigations into the ownership and shareholding of EuropCar and Intercar by CID later indicated that Kutesa was a majority shareholder in Intercar. This raised an issue of conflict of interest.

Kutesa denied having a stake in the company. He said he had lost interest in it two years before CHOGM. However he could not explain why he wrote letters to EuropCar/Intercar and other companies inviting them to bid, a role of an accounting officer, not a minister.

On November 24, 2006 Kutesa submitted to the Minister of Works an offer of BMW. In both cases, PAC says, neither Nasasira nor Kutesa seemed bothered by the irregularity. Kutesa has also not accounted for money collected by the CHOGM Sponsorship Committee he headed.

Tourism State Minister Serapio Rukundo

Rukundo is accused of influence peddling and causing financial loss of US$1.5 million to government in a dubious J&M Airport Hotel deal.

Rukundo told PAC that he had inspected the hotel on the invitation of the proprietor, the late Joseph Behakanira. Rukundo later reportedly wrote to the Ministry of Finance lobbying that the hotel be considered for a government guarantee on a loan from Barclays Bank two months before CHOGM. In his letter, PAC says, Rukundo deliberately misled Finance when he wrote that the J&M had contracted the worldwide hotel managers M/S Protea to manage the hotel during CHOGM. However, appearing before PAC prior to his death, Behakanira had denied approaching any government official for assistance and hiring Protea. Rukundo later acknowledged lying about Protea. Subsequent to Rukundo’s letter to finance, Shs2.2 billion was paid to J&M Airport Hotel for construction of 200 rooms only three days to the summit. Also he is said to have initiated training of employees of private hotels at Utali College in Kenya instead of the government training institute in Jinja. He reportedly did not provide proper policy guidelines on training and the government lost Shs1.7 billion. According to PAC, he also varied the cost of constructing the Cultural Village by Matrix Construction Company from Shs501 million Shs800 million.

Former Finance Minister Ezra Suruma

Suruma is accused of abuse of office and influence peddling thus causing a financial loss to government of over Shs362 million following the diversion of the scope of four major CHOGM roads to upgrade a section of Salaama road that leads to his private residence. PAC recommends that Suruma be investigated by the IGG for possible prosecution.

Agriculture Minister Hope Mwesigye

She is accused of abuse of office and causing financial loss to government of Shs617 million. She reportedly hijacked the work of a committee in charge of decoration of venues chaired by Rhoda Kaisho and awarded the contract to a consortium of decorators contrary to the law procurement rules. On October 26, 2007, Mwesigye chaired a negotiation meeting with the decorators and awarded them the contract. If she is taken to the Anti-Corruption Court, on conviction she faces up to 14 and seven years in jail for causing financial loss and abuse of office respectively.  She is said to have caused government a loss of over Shs280m on the Shimon exhibition contract.

Security Minister Amama Mbabazi

As chairman of the inspection team, Mbabazi instructed the decoration committee to do the work immediately and later seek for retrospective authority.  Mbabazi told PAC that he wrote the letter in his capacity as “Inspector General of CHOGM.” The People’s Forum meeting was not decorated at all and yet funds were provided for it. Mbabazi is also said to have varied the original price of US$3.2 million for security communication equipment by the ICT ministry and instead told President Museveni that the cost was up to US$5,000,000. The bidding company Balton later submitted a bid of US$4,999,999 for the tender. Ms Susan Katono, the company’s Executive Sales person is Mbabazi’s relative.

Former ICT Minister Ham Mulira

PAC suggested that Mulira be investigated by the IGG. He and Mbabazi were directly involved in the Balton contract.

Foreign Affairs State Minister Isaac Musumba.

He is held liable for abuse of office and influence peddling leading to a loss of Shs302 million to government.

Foreign Affairs State Minister Isaac Musumba

He is held liable for abuse of office and influence peddling leading to a loss of Shs302 million to governmentÂ

Labour State Minister Mwesigwa Rakutana

He is accused of abuse of office and causing loss to government of over Shs362 million for the construction of a road to his home. PAC recommend that the two be investigated by the IGG for prosecution.

On May 21, the Anti-Corruption Court convicted the first CHOGM culprit Samson Bagonza, a Ministry Works engineer, for abuse of office and causing financial loss to government during construction of the CHOGM roads. Bagonza is now in Luzira Prison pending his sentencing in June. He faces between 7 to 14 years in prison.

While convicting Eng. Bagonza, Judge Katutsi observed: This court is tired of trying tilapias when crocodiles are left swimming, Katutsi stated.

However, that President Museveni could not personally take action against his implicated ministers and had to ask Nsibambi to do it, is surprising. If the president believed his ministers had misappropriated CHOGM money, why didn’t he drop them from cabinet and order their prosecution? Observers say the president is torn between throwing them out and thus risking a huge political price and sparing them at the risk of provoking the donors wrath. In the circumstances therefore Museveni does not punish them but will instruct Nsibambi to take action against them, well knowing the prime minister cannot. The futility of Museveni’s directive to punish the CHOGM suspects is evident in  Nsibambis inaction since March 11 when the president asked him to act not later than end of April.

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