• Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has identified thousands of stolen Karamoja iron sheets, which were recovered from two ministers, as crucial evidence for their upcoming trial in the High Court.

The ministers in question are Mary Goretti Kitutu, the Karamoja Affairs Minister, and Amos Lugoloobi, the State Minister for Planning.

They have been charged with their alleged involvement in the theft and diversion of iron sheets intended for reformed warriors and other vulnerable individuals under the Karamoja Community Empowerment Programme.

Surprisingly, the DPP’s recent decision to close 17 case files, which overlooked reports of the suspects’ reception of the stolen iron sheets as unintended beneficiaries, has raised questions.

However, the spokesperson for the office of the DPP, Jacquelyn Okui, declined to comment on this matter, stating that they do not discuss evidence intended for court proceedings with the media.

It is worth noting that the ministers returned the iron sheets or provided cash reimbursements only after President Museveni issued a directive on March 13, of which they took action.

Clearing 17 case files for lack of incriminating evidence, as announced by the DPP Jane Frances Abodo, has sparked widespread criticism both within and outside of Karamoja.

Among the 17 files, some may involve prominent figures such as Vice President Jessica Alupo, Speaker of Parliament Anita Among, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, and other ministers.

Alongside Ms Kitutu and Mr Lugoloobi, Ms Agnes Nandutu, the Junior Minister for Karamoja Affairs, became the first minister to be committed for trial in mid-April due to her involvement in the iron sheets scandal.

The Case against Kitutu

According to Chief State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya, who presented a 10-page summary of evidence at the Anti-Corruption Court, the Karamoja ministry, under Ms Kitutu’s leadership, received a supplementary budget of over USh39 billion in 2021.

This funding was intended for disarmament, pacification, and peace-building programs in the Karamoja region.

Two companies, MM Integrated Steel Mills Uganda Ltd and M/S Roofings Group, were contracted to supply the iron sheets.

As per the evidence presented, the iron sheets, amounting to a total of 95,044, were delivered to the OPM stores in Namanve, awaiting implementation of the program in the Karamoja sub-region.

However, it is alleged that on June 8, 2022, a co-accused of Minister Kitutu, Abaho Joshua, sent an internal memo to the undersecretary/accounting officer at the OPM, requesting the release of 10,000 pre-painted iron sheets for the official launch of the distribution, which was to be presided over by President Museveni in Moroto.

The memo, approved by the undersecretary on June 10, 2022, was forwarded to the senior inventory management officer for processing and release of the 10,000 iron sheets.

However, it is revealed that only 1,000 iron sheets were released for the President’s launch at Naitakwae Grounds in Moroto District.

After the launch, Minister Kitutu, through Mr Abaho, began distributing the remaining 9,000 iron sheets to unintended beneficiaries, including other ministers and Members of Parliament. The DPP alleges that Minister Kitutu herself took 3,000 of these sheets.

In another incident, on January 12, 2023, Minister Kitutu sent an internal memo to the undersecretary at the OPM, requesting the release of an additional 10,000 iron sheets for distribution in the Karamoja Sub-region.

The memo stated that the iron sheets were needed to fulfil the ministry’s commitment to the people of Karamoja under the Community Empowerment Programme.

The undersecretary approved the request, and the 10,000 iron sheets were released from the OPM stores.

However, investigations revealed that Minister Kitutu and her co-accused, Abaho Joshua, diverted a significant portion of these iron sheets for their benefit.

It is alleged that they distributed the iron sheets to individuals who were not part of the intended beneficiaries, including business associates, family members, and political allies.

The evidence against Minister Kitutu includes internal memos, correspondence, and testimonies from witnesses who were involved in the distribution process.

The DPP argues that the actions of Minister Kitutu and her co-accused amount to misappropriation of public funds and abuse of office, as they intentionally diverted resources meant for vulnerable individuals in the Karamoja region.

The Case against Lugoloobi

In the case against Amos Lugoloobi, the State Minister for Planning, the evidence presented by the prosecution focuses on his alleged involvement in the diversion of iron sheets from the Karamoja Community Empowerment Programme.

According to the Chief State Attorney, Mr Lugoloobi, in his capacity as the Minister of State for Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, played a key role in authorising the release of funds for the programme.

It is alleged that Minister Lugoloobi approved the release of funds without proper oversight and due diligence, allowing the misappropriation of resources.

The prosecution argues that he failed to ensure that the funds were used for their intended purpose and instead facilitated their diversion for personal gain.

The evidence against Minister Lugoloobi includes financial records, bank statements, and testimonies from individuals involved in the disbursement of funds.

The prosecution asserts that his actions constitute a breach of trust and a violation of his responsibilities as a public official.

Next Steps and Implications

With the identification of the recovered iron sheets as crucial evidence in the upcoming trial, the prosecution will present its case against Minister Kitutu and Minister Lugoloobi in the High Court.

If found guilty, they could face severe legal consequences, including imprisonment and fines. The trial will also have political implications, as it involves high-ranking government officials.

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