5 December 2012

Uganda: Detectives Probing Govt Bodies Over Fraud

Over 38 squads of Police detectives from the Criminal Intelligence Investigations Directorate (CIID) are investigating reports of major fraud in at least 12 ministries and government institutions.

The squads are focusing on funds allocated to ministries that were allegedly embezzled, leading to failure to accomplish projects.

The key government ministries and agencies under probe include, Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the ministries of public service, health, education, local government, works and transport, finance, lands and internal affairs (Immigration). The other agencies are National Planning Authority, National Drug Authority, and the Export Promotions Board.

A number of officials from various ministries under investigations have been arrested, questioned and have recorded statements with the Police on charges of abuse of office, embezzlement, causing financial loss, conspiracy to defraud, forgery and false accountability.

The director CIID, Grace Akullo, told New Vision yesterday that Police intelligence, complaints from the public, whistle blowers from the ministries and the Auditor General's reports triggered the investigations in the ministries.

"Detectives investigating these cases are in their final stages and by next week most files will have been forwarded to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for sanctioning and soon the suspects will appear before courts of law on various charges," Akullo said.

She added that by early next year, most suspects would have been prosecuted in court. The probes kicked off in April this year.

Office of the Prime Minister

In the OPM, the Police are investigating the alleged theft of over sh50b by top ministry officials and others from the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Uganda. Several officials have been interdicted and the OPM principal accountant, Geoffrey Kazinda and three others, have been charged and remanded to Luzira Prison.

Ministry of Public Service

Probe in the Ministry of Public Service is focusing on the alleged theft of over sh169b in a mega pension scam.

The permanent secretary, Jimmy Lwamafa; the principal accountant, Christopher Obey, together with several senior officials, have been interdicted over the alleged scam.

The Police have identified over 200 prime properties of key suspects who are yet to appear in court. Transactions relating to the suspected ill-gotten assets have been stopped and the suspects' bank accounts frozen. No suspect has been charged in court yet.

Ministry of Health

The probe in the Ministry of Health is multi-faceted and focuses on the alleged mismanagement of the Global Funds meant for malaria. It is suspected that about $31m (about sh78b), meant for Global Fund's Round 4 malaria phase 2 and Round 7 Malaria phase 1, is missing. The other is a component on HIV/AIDS.

Scores of officials have been interrogated. No one has so far been charged.

Ministry of Education

The Police is probing allegations of fraud and gross mismanagement of a World Bank-funded project, leading to losses in hundreds of millions of shillings and also allegations of sectarianism and nepotism in the ministry.

A number of top education ministry officials including the commissioner for secondary education, John Agaba, have been questioned. No one has so far been prosecuted in connection with it.

Ministry of Works

The Police are probing 18 projects worth over sh36b in which sh8b is thought to have been lost. A number of top ministry engineers have been interdicted and questioned.

In addition, several directors of a number of construction firms have been questioned over works on bridges and roads.

The probe in the works ministry followed a presidential directive after it emerged that newly-built bridges in western and north-eastern parts of the country, had collapsed.

Ministry of Local Government

The Police are probing mismanagement of projects for development of markets in about eight districts.

There are also investigations into alleged theft of money for capacity building in the local government.

It is alleged that huge amounts of money were stolen by officials claiming to have organised workshops and seminars in various parts of the country. Several top officials and drivers of the local government ministry have been interrogated. No one has been charged in court yet.

National Drug Authority

The probe into the National Drug Authority (NDA) is on the alleged mismanagement of funds amounting to over sh2b. The money was for operational activities such as travel and maintenance of motor vehicles and fuel.

Several officials, former NDA board members as well as the former executive director, Dr. Apollo Muheirwe, have been questioned.

Challenges faced by detectives

According to the Police, investigations take long because of challenges in the gathering and analysing of evidence, delays in the release of audit reports and shortage of handwriting experts.

"Fraud cases are filled with forgery, so the Police forensic team has to match the signatures to that of the suspects before charges are aligned," Police sources said.

Police also lack transport yet some investigations require travelling to various parts of the country.

"There are few vehicles for detectives to reach the field in various parts of the country to execute their duties," a Police source revealed.

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