• Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala has commenced the trial of Agnes Nandutu, the State Minister for Karamoja Affairs, who is accused of possessing suspected property from a Karamoja iron sheets project.

The trial, presided over by Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga, is a significant development in the case that has garnered public attention.

According to the prosecution, during June 2022, at the office of the Prime Minister’s Stores in Namanve and Kkola Cell Bulwanyi Parish, Mukono District, Nandutu dealt with government property consisting of 2,000 pre-painted iron sheets Gauge 28.

She stands accused of receiving and holding these iron sheets, which the prosecution claims were obtained through the loss of public property, an offence under Section 10 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2000 as amended.

During the trial on Thursday, 27th July 2023, the prosecution presented its first witness, Evelyn Hilda Bazibu, who serves as a political assistant to Nandutu and works as a program scheduler at a local television station (NTV).

Bazibu testified that she received and signed the disputed iron sheets on behalf of Nandutu in June 2021.

She claims that Nandutu informed her that the iron sheets were intended as relief items for people affected by landslides in Bududa.

Bazibu further testified that she oversaw the loading of the iron sheets onto a truck at the Prime Minister’s Stores in Namanve.

Each bundle contained 12 pieces, and there were 200 bundles in total, making up the alleged 2,000 pieces of iron sheets. Subsequently, she signed a voucher confirming receipt of the iron sheets.

“In June last year, I was contacted by Hon Nandutu who told me that she had been given 2,000 iron sheets by Hon (Goretti Kitutu). At that time, she told me they (iron sheets) would be good for Bududu people hit by landslides,” Bazibu testified on Thursday, 27th July 2023.

She also testified that upon picking the iron sheets, the minister told her to keep them at her home in Namusera, Wakiso District for at least two weeks because she did not have enough space.

“…the counting was done in front of the store. Osbert, the person whom the minister told me to see said that the iron sheets are counted in bundles and that each has 12 pieces, and they were 200 bundles. He also told me to take a photo of the truck,” said Bazibu adding that she signed on behalf of Ms Nandutu.

“She asked me to call a man called Moses to drive the iron sheets to Bududa but I told her his truck was small for the iron sheets as they were bulky and she (Nandutu) told me to call another one called John Shebale as he has contacts of truck drivers who move goods from Mbale to Kampala and they said they charge Shs1.5 million,” said Bazibu adding that she kept reminding the minister about the iron sheets and the need to use her garage where they had been kept.

Bazibu said she has been helping Ms Nandutu with running budgets, and withdrawing mobile money and that on the day they were taking the iron sheets, she received a phone call from her daughter’s school informing her about her attack and she handed over items to a one John Watenga who manages Ms Nandutu’s farm.

However, during cross-examination, Bazibu testified that she did not count the iron sheets and could not tell the exact number.

She did not know if the intended beneficiaries (in Bududa) were ever organised to receive the iron sheets but the ledger book she signed was for Bududa District where Ms Nandutu was elected as a woman representative.

Mr Geoffrey Sseremba, the undersecretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) whose role is to manage expenditures under allocated programmes testified in court as a technical witness.

Mr Sseremba who also doubles as an accounting officer told the court that in 2022, a total of USh39.94 billion was approved for peace-building activities in the restive mineral-rich Karamoja Sub-region.

The activities, according to Sseremba included addressing the disadvantaged situations, causing the development to inform of infrastructure and also extending social welfare services such as schools and health centres to the people of the northeastern sub-region to persuade them to embrace disarmament and abandon cattle rustling for legally acceptable income generating activities.

The trial judge Jane Kajuga adjourned the case to August 30 for further hearing of the prosecution witness.

The prosecution’s main argument revolves around the alleged misuse of government property.

It is contended that the iron sheets, procured by the government for a program aimed at restoring peace in Karamoja, did not reach the intended beneficiaries, leading to a loss of government property.

Earlier, Justice Kajuga issued a directive prohibiting video recording and image publication from the court proceedings to protect witnesses and prevent potential intimidation.

However, media representatives were allowed to attend and obtain audio recordings for reporting purposes.

Nandutu was represented by a legal team comprising Evans Ochieng and Nandah Wamukota.

The case has captured public attention, and its outcome is being closely followed by both the media and the public.


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