Uganda: Pension Scam – Kajura and Muhakanizi Named in Court

Stephen Kunsa Kiwanuka, the former director for research and development in the ministry of Public Service, has told High court that Henry Muganwa Kajura, his former minister, was to blame for the whole pension scam.

He said this on Friday while appearing in the witness dock at the Anti-Corruption court. Kiwanuka, together with former public service ministry officials Jimmy Lwamafa (permanent secretary) and Christopher Obey (principal accountant), is accused of illegally setting aside Shs 88.2 billion in the ministry budget as civil servants' pension contribution to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) well knowing they don't contribute to the fund.

The suspects face charges ranging from causing financial loss, abuse of office, false accounting, to conspiracy to defraud government. In his day-long defence, Kiwanuka, 58, said what they budgeted for was "gratuity" but minister Kajura changed the wording to NSSF.

"My lord, we knew that civil servants don't pay NSSF. Even in our work plans we never included NSSF anywhere. But for some reason, the ministerial statement had NSSF, which I think was an error made by the minister [Kajura]," Kiwanuka said.

Kiwanuka did not spare Keith Muhakanizi, the permanent secretary, ministry of finance and secretary to the treasury. He claimed Muhakanizi was economical with the truth when he testified in court.

"When we appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2015, we [Kiwanuka and Muhakanizi] were charged together for those NSSF estimations. That time he [Muhakanizi] defended the figures saying they were pensions wrongly called NSSF but I was shocked when he came to court to testify against us," Kiwanuka said.

In his testimony last year, Muhakanizi said the auditor general found that none of the money budgeted for and released to public service ostensibly for social security contributions, was ever remitted to NSSF. Asked by trial Judge Lawrence Gidudu if he knew where the money was put, Muhakanizi replied:

"It [money] could have formed part of the funds that were later paid as gratuity to non-existent pensioners."

Prosecution alleges that Kiwanuka, Obey and Lwamafa defended the budget estimates for the financial years 2010/2011 and 2011/2012, which includeda total of Shs 88 billion meant for social security contributions and parliament approved the same.

But Kiwanuka denied that claim. He said when he appeared before the parliamentary committee on public service, NSSF estimates weren't discussed.

"Whether we had budgeted for NSSF or not, it was not discussed in parliament," he said. "What we discussed was gratuity and pension," Kiwanuka said.

At the end, Kiwanuka who worked at the ministry from 1989 to 2012 asked the judge to acquit him.

"My lord, I have gone through a lot of things. I was taken to Kibuli (CIID) were I was psychologically, physically and mentally tortured but I have never committed any crime," he said, "I have never stolen a single penny."

The trial is still continuing with Obey expected to defend himself.

Source: The Observer.

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