UGANDA: OPM food scandal Officials face Anti-Corruption Court

UGANDA: OPM food scandal Officials face Anti-Corruption Court

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Four officials from the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) accused of inflating prices of COVID-19 relief food will today appear before the Anti-Corruption Court to plead to the charges against them afresh. 

They are Christine Guwatudde, the permanent secretary, Joel Wanjala, the undersecretary, Martin Owor, the commissioner disaster preparedness, and Fred Lutimba, the assistant commissioner in charge of procurement.  

The group was initially charged at Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Court and released on bail but their case was later transferred to the Kololo based Anti-Corruption Court, which is better placed to handle corruption-related matters.   

On Monday, the group appeared before Grade One Magistrate Sarah Namusobya to plead afresh to the charges but it hit a snag after the magistrate informed them that they will have to re-apply for bail.  

This prompted them to request the magistrate to adjourn the matter to today to enable them to produce sureties.   

It is also not known whether they will have to pay money if released on cash bail or the court will reconsider the money they earlier deposited at Buganda Road Court. 

Defence lawyer Mac Dosman Kabega argued that it would be unfair for the court to remand them yet they had already secured bail.  

This prompted the magistrate to adjourn the matter to today for plea taking.  

Guwatudde and the group are indicted with 24 counts including abuse of office, fraudulent false accounting, corruption, and colluding to commit a fraudulent practice contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009, and Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, 2003 as amended.  

They were arrested by the State House Anti-Corruption Unit headed by Lt Col Edith Nakalema in April this year on allegations of inflating COVID-19 relief food prices.  

Charges  

The prosecution alleges that on April 1, 2020, at the OPM office, Guwatudde and Lutimba did an arbitrary act prejudicial to the interest of their employer.  

The duo is accused of preparing and issuing an award letter to Aponye (U) Ltd for the supply of 2m kilograms of maize meal at sh3, 000 per kg worth sh6b, as food relief items for COVID-19 in total disregard of the procurement procedures.  

It is further alleged that the accused with intent to defraud made false entry in an award letter to Aponye (U) Ltd to supply 2m kgs of maize meal at sh3, 000 per kg worth sh6b, as relief food items for COVID-19, purporting the same to have been allocated by the OPM contracts committee whereas not.  

They are also accused of awarding Mandela Millers Ltd to supply 3m kgs of maize meal at sh3, 000 per kg worth sh9b, as relief items for COVID-19, in total disregard of the procurement procedures.  

Lutimba allegedly neglected to perform his duty under the law when he failed to advise the accounting officer in the procurement of food relief items for COVID-19 resulting in gross violation of the procurement procedures.  

They further face the alternative charge of conspiracy to commit a felony. 

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