Six OPM officials sent to Luzira over Karamoja cash scandal

Six OPM officials sent to Luzira over Karamoja cash scandal
The OPM officials who have been remanded to Luzira Prison

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Six officials from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) have been remanded to Luzira Prison for alleged embezzlement of Shs 11 billion under Karamoja’s Peace Initiative.

The six are Deogratious Masigazi, the Under Secretary/head of the Pacification and Development Program, Joshua Abaho, the Senior Assistant Secretary, the Principal Assistant Secretary Barbara Asasira, Emmy Tonny Ameny- the Assistant Commissioner Programs, Peter Amodoi-the Programs Officer, and the Assistant Secretary Samuel Ofungi.

The group that was arrested on Wednesday 14, June 2023 by detectives attached to the office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG).

They appeared before the Acting Senior Principal Magistrate Grade One Abert Asiimwe and were charged with 12 counts of causing financial loss, abuse of office, and embezzlement.

They are charged alongside Geoffrey Sseremba, the Undersecretary and Accounting Officer, who was however not in Court.

It is alleged that between February and June 2022, Sseremba and Masigazi approved a total cash payment of 4,497,132,000 (Four billion, four hundred and ninety-seven million, one hundred and thirty-two thousand) Shillings to various members of staff without a proper work plan for a genuine activity to be carried out.

The prosecution said they had reason to believe that their acts would cause financial loss and indeed, they caused a loss of 3, 347,491,000 (Three billion, three hundred and forty-seven million, four hundred and ninety-one thousand) Shillings to their employer.

Masigazi and Sseremba were also been charged with abuse of office  for having arbitrarily approved the said money without following guidelines.

The prosecution argues that Masigazi and Sseremba conduct was prejudicial to the interest of their employer.

The court has also heard that in June 2022, Joshua Abaho, the other accused person stole two billion, four hundred and seventy-three million, one hundred and fifty-four thousand Shillings (2,473,154,000) advanced to him for coordinating various peace-building initiatives in the Karamoja region.

According to the Prosecution, Abaho had been given a total cash payment of two billion, four hundred and ninety-three million, one hundred and fifty-four thousand (2,493,154,000 shillings but he never conducted the activities and thus failed to account for it.

The State further alleges that between April and June 2022, while employed as Principal Assistant Secretary, Barbara Asasira received a total cash payment of Five hundred and thirty-eight million, five hundred and twenty-six thousand(538,526,000 ) and failed to account for the entire sum.

Relatedly, Emmy Tonny Ameny, an Assistant attached to the Commissioner of Programmes is accused of stealing two hundred and twenty-five million, five hundred and fifty thousand shillings.

Peter Amodoi is accused of stealing one hundred million, three hundred and thirty-eight thousand shillings between March and June 2022. He allegedly failing to account for two hundred and seventeen million, five hundred and seven thousand, one hundred and fifty-eight (217, 507, 158) shillings.

The Prosecution alleges that Samuel Ofungi stole twenty-five million, four hundred and seventy-three thousand shillings (25, 473, 000)

Samuel Ofungi is a Senior Assistant Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister. This money was part of an allocation of sixty-nine million, two hundred and ninety-eight shillings(69, 298, 000). He allegedly received the money but didn’t conduct any activity and failed to account for it.

All the accused denied the charges. Their lawyers including Paul Kuteesa and George Muhangi among others told court that they had instructions to apply for bail. They asked the Court to remand them for a short period of time, such that they can attend trial as they come from home.

The Prosecution led by Rogers Kinobe from IGG’s office informed Court that investigations into this case sanctioned by the IGG Beti Kamya herself are still ongoing.

The prosecution also prayed for a criminal summons to be issued against Sseremba, but the magistrate ruled that Sseremba should produce himself in the court on June 16.

Read Also: Minister Nandutu sent to Luzira prison over Karamoja iron sheets

He also issued a production warrant ordering Prisons to produce Abaho tomorrow before the Chief Magistrate for other cases.

Abaho, the Personal Assistant to the Karamoja Affairs  Minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu has been sent back to Luzira Prison just a month after he was granted bail on a file in which he is implicated with Minister Gorreti Kitutu and her brother Michael Naboya Kitutu.

The group is jointly facing trial on charges related to the diversion of more than 14,500 iron sheets also meant for the vulnerable people in Karamoja under the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program.

In December 2021, the Parliament passed a supplementary budget worth 39 billion shillings to support various programs in Karamoja. Of these, 22 billion shillings were meant to purchase goats while 5 billion shillings were for the procurement of 100,000 iron sheets which have also since been diverted.