For their role in the fraudulent purchase of 70,000 bicycles meant for village chairmen in 2011, six officials were yesterday handed a total of 34 years and eight months in jail – and a Shs 4.6bn debt.
The Anti-Corruption court was packed to capacity as the former permanent secretary in the ministry of Local Government, John Muhanguzi Kashaka, and former Principal Accountant Henry Bamutura were each handed a jail term of 10 years and 10 days for causing government a loss of Shs 4.6bn. Justice Catherine Bamugemereire put on a typical tough face, condemning the convicts for their various transgressions. The convicts smiled back – as if they expected no less.
The judge also ordered Kashaka and Bamutura and their four co-accused, to refund the Shs 4.6bn taken by Aitel Limited for bicycles they never delivered. The duo also battled several counts of abuse of office and neglect of duty. Earlier, on Tuesday, they had been convicted alongside Robert Mwebaze (head of procurement), Timothy Musherure (consultant), Sam Erongot Emorut (assistant commissioner policy and planning) and Adam Aluma (administrative officer).
“The sentences are meant to castigate future offenders that corruption is a risky business. Persons of this character are hereby warned and the judiciary should not treat convicts of corruption with kid gloves,” Bamugemereire said.
Mwebaze was handed six years for abuse of office and four years for neglect of duty – concurrently. Emorut was sentenced to six years in prison. Justice Bamugemereire said he deserved the punishment because he played a principal role in theft since he was the chairman of the evaluation committee.
Musherure got 20 months in jail for failing to report the offence. Aluma, who the judge described as a water garbage, was handed a one-year jail term for being irresponsible.
“I have taken into account all mitigating factors. Apart from Aluma, who is the youngest, I have also considered the aanced age of the rest of the convicts who all must jointly make good of the money (Shs 4.6bn). You’re all disqualified from holding government positions,” the judge said.
During their conviction on Tuesday, Justice Bamugemereire said Kashaka and Bamutura failed to exercise due diligence when they sanctioned payments to Aitel Limited yet the shipping documents submitted by the company had a lot of discrepancies.
On the charge of abuse of office, the judge acquitted Kashaka she said he was duped by Bamutura who seemed to know the fraudsters (Aitel) very well. Bamugemereire also ruled that Emorut, who headed the evaluation committee, connived with the directors of Aitel to fleece public funds.
“When Aitel failed to deliver the bicycles, one of its directors showed up at the ministry of Local Government, he was chased away by A1 [Kashaka] yet when he went to talk to Emorut, he simply welcomed him and they chatted hence extending the date of delivering the bicycles. This means that Emorut connived with these fraudsters to [rob] his own country,” she said.
The judge also said Aitel was not among the companies that submitted their original bids.
“This company was just smuggled in at the last minute since it was not among the 12 companies that submitted in their bids initially… this points to the endemic corruption that has eaten up our public service,” she said.
Convict Guilty of
Causing financial loss 10 years
Henry Bamutura Causing financial loss 10 years
Robert Mwebaze (head of procurement)
Neglect of duty 6 years
Sam Erongot Emorut (Asst Commissioner) Neglect of duty
Adam Aluma (Admin officer) Neglect of duty 1 year
Timothy Musherure (consultant) Abetting crime
Source : The Observer