New Vision (Kampala)

22 November 2012

Uganda: More Arrests in OPM Fraud

The United States of America through ambassador Scott Delisi has assured Uganda that Omaba's government will not cut aid over graft claims in the ... ( Resource: America Will Not Withdraw Aid From Uganda

Finance senior economist David Mugisha, probably had no idea what lay ahead of him when he returned from China early this week, where he had gone for a course in Oil Economics.

Mugisha together with Charles Mwase, an accountant from Treasury were arrested on Tuesday by CID immediately after appearing before the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament.

The two, join a list of four others Bright Atwine, a senior accountant, Wilbert Okello a principal system analyst, Amon Takwenda an accountant and Tony Yawe, a systems administrator.

During the meeting, Okello accused Mugisha and Mwasa of masterminding the transfer of over sh14.8b disguised as salary from one account to another within Bank of Uganda.

"They came to me and asked me to help them transfer money from one account to another. They even plotted how money would move from the source," Okello who testified under tight security, told MPs.

Okello tabled sheets of papers, where Mugisha and Mwasa reportedly scribbled their plan. Mugisha and Mwasa vehemently denied the allegations.

"This is not my handwriting. I have never held a meeting in Okello's office over this matter. I advise the committee to view the CCTV cameras," Mugisha said.

When the MPs grilled Mugisha further, he said the money was indicated for Karamoja project on the BOU spread sheet.

During the meeting, Atwine and Okello complained that it was not fair for police to arrest them and leave the others scot-free.

After the arrest of Mugisha and Mwasa, Police yesterday interrogated the six officers over the theft of the money meant for PRDP.

On Wednesday, detectives began interrogating the suspects in the morning but only began recording statements later in the afternoon.

The alleged fraud was detected following a forensic audit by the Auditor General (AG) in the OPM after the arrest of Geoffrey Kazinda, the principal accountant in the premiers office blew open the Pandora box.

The special audit by the AG found substantial evidence detailing how aid from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark was transferred to unauthorized accounts in a sophisticated scam which resulted in the theft of at least sh 50b.

The UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Ireland have cut aid to Uganda over the scandal that has rocked the Office of the Prime Minister.

The alleged fraudulent of sh20b, according to the forensic audit was effected in two installments-one of sh14.8b and the other of sh5.2b which was executed by way of two electronic funds transfers (EFT), amid later attempts at cover up. The sh14.8bn was support from the Irish Government.

According to the report sh14.8b which was received on the basket budget support account on July 27 2011 was fraudulently transferred on December 1, 2011 to the account named "Crisis Management and Recovery Programme" under OPM in BOU by way of electronic transfer.

"This account had been dormant for almost two financial years," the report notes adding that the transfer had been disguised as a salary EFT file and had no authorization of the Accountant General.

The report notes that the alleged fraud was originated from Treasury and was sent from a Uganda Computer services using pass words known to Okello and Yawe.

Following the alleged transfer, attempts at cover up were allegedly made 20 days with an attempt to prepare a security paper and duly authorize it, bringing into play Atwine.

The sh5.2b according to the report was also fraudulently transferred from the basket budget support to PRDP account to the crisis management account of OPM by way of electronic transfers disguised as salary EFT files. Just like was the case with the s 14.8b, this too was never authorized by the Accountant General.

The report notes that all transfers from budget support accounts can only be effected by way of signed security papers and not by electronic transfer and require authorization by the Accountant General.

Kazinda, a former principal accountant in OPM who was arrested in July has already been charged alongside several other suspects in connection with the alleged embezzlement.

Efforts to get comment from the director CIID, Grace Akullo were futile as her phone went unanswered, though sources said all the six would have to record statements. "They have to record a charge and caution statements," a source said.

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