Uganda: Pension Scam – I Told Lies to Police – Lwamafa

Jimmy Lwamafa, the former permanent secretary in the ministry of Public Service, yesterday disowned his police statement.

He told the Anti-Corruption court that the statement was extracted under duress. Lwamafa, together with former public service ministry officials Christopher Obey (principal accountant) and Stephen Kunsa Kiwanuka (director for research and development) are accused of illegally including Shs 88.2 billion meant for civil servants into the ministry's budget as a purported pension contribution to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) yet they knew civil servants don't contribute to the fund.

The suspects face charges ranging from causing financial loss, abuse of office, false accounting and conspiracy to defraud government. On the second day of his testimony, Lwamafa denied the contents of the police statement he made on February 3, 2013 at CIID headquarters in Kibuli.

In the statement, Lwamafa had incriminated himself by admitting that though they budgeted for the NSSF funds, they knew that civil servants don't contribute to the fund.

"My lord, I was under pressure. When you are under pressure, you can just say anything; the environment at Kibuli [police station] isn't the best," Lwamafa said.

"My blood pressure went up, I lost my mind and my lord if you were to go through what I went through, you would understand what I'm talking about," he said.

This prompted the trial judge Lawrence Gidudu to ask him if policemen showed him crocodiles. "No my lord, but the way they handled me," Lwamafa said, adding,

"They put me in the double-cabin [truck], they sat on me and drove off at a very high speed. I was not under the right frame of mind."

But Justice Gidudu wasn't done, he pointed out that Lwamafa was arrested in September 2012 and he made the statement in February 2013. To the judge, this was enough time for Lwamafa to recover from any torture.

"My lord, I was just on bond. I had not gained my freedom that is why I told police things which were not true," he said.

Lwamafa, who was cross-examined by state prosecutor Barbra Kawuma, denied that he, together with Kunsa and Obey, defended the budget estimates for the financial years 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 in parliament like he said in his police statement.

In the budget estimates, the accused included Shs 88 billion meant for NSSF contributions and parliament approved the same. Justice Gidudu intervened and suggested that Lwamafa was disowning his statement because he didn't want to implicate his co-accused. But Lwamafa roundly rejected the judge's assertion.

On Monday, Lwamafa explained that he learnt about the alleged irregular inclusion of the NSSF item in the budget for the two financial years, after the late Chris Kassami, then Secretary to the Treasury, wrote to him demanding an explanation. This contradicted his police statement in which he said that he first learnt of the scandal when the Auditor General John Muwanga wrote a report to parliament.

When his lawyer Evans Ochieng asked him why the NSSF item reappeared in the following financial year of 2011/12 yet he had written to the Finance ministry in the previous year to say it had been included in error, Lwamafa said in the second financial year, he was on his way out of the ministry and that before he left office no new red flag had been raised. The trial is still going on.

Source: The Observer.

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