New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Chogm - Court Acquits Kutesa, Nasasira, Rukutana

The Anti-Corruption Court has dismissed a case in which three Cabinet Ministers were charged with causing the loss of sh14bn CHOGM funds.

The prosecution case against Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, for Gender John Nasasira and of Labour Mwesigwa Rukutana closed on November 2, after testimonies of 11 witnesses and a written statement of the twelfth.

Judge Paul Mugamba acquitted the ministers on Friday for lack of evidence.

The lawyers defending the three asked the Court to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. They submitted that the Inspectorate of Government was only using the Ministers as scapegoats for its perceived failures of technical people in Government.

According to the defence lawyers, all prosecution witnesses including the IGG's lead investigator on the case, denied knowledge of the Ministers' wrong doing or any loss occasioned by them.

The IGG's Director of Legal Affairs, Sydney Asubo, prosecuted the case under direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Dr. Joseph Byamugisha, Didas Nkurunziza and Oscar Kambona defended the ministers.

Asubo said enough evidence was adduced to warrant that the Ministers be put on their defence. He said that the National Task Force on CHOGM was merely there to implement what was decided and there was nothing on record to show the Ministers gave feedback of what they did in Munyonyo before the memorandum of understanding was signed.

"This means that someone made this decision. The question is who? Our submission is that it is the accused," Asubo submitted. 'That is why the minutes of the December 17, 05 are unknown in the cabinet records, hence the irregularity... our evidence is enough to warrant that the accused be put on their defence."

But the defence lawyers said that prosecution witnesses testified that the Ministers were mandated to inspect Munyonyo. The lawyers said there was no evidence showing that the Minister never reported back. The witnesses also testified that the Ministers said technical people should follow up, the lawyers said.

"There were senior government technocrats from different Ministries. If they failed to take advantage of their legal protection, they cannot blame it on the accused (Ministers)," Nkurunziza said. He pointed out that in Sudhir Ruparelia's statement brought by Asubo; Sudhir stated that he is still waiting to conclude discussions and negotiations with Government.

"If ever there was a loss, it would be the failure to comply with the President's directive to turn all the Government contributions at Munyonyo into Government equity and this directive was given before any money was spent...," Nkurunziza said. "The burden of proof remains with prosecution. Prosecution cannot say we do not know who made the decision, so we assume it is the accused who did. They have to bring evidence..."

He said that prosecution pointed out that the Munyonyo meeting minutes were not part of cabinet records and were therefore irregular. They should ask the National Task Force why, if it did, it relied on unsigned, unapproved purported minutes.

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