The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Kazinda's Defence Revealed As Trial Begins

Geoffrey Kazinda tomorrow finds himself thrust into the spotlight again as a central figure in the trial of government officials alleged to have swindled close to Shs 50bn from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

The jailed former principal accountant in OPM will appear for his first trial in the Anti-Corruption court. According to a police statement seen by The Observer, Kazinda is expected to plead not guilty to all 36 counts of forgery, embezzlement and causing financial loss. And prosecution, led by Principal State Attorney Jane Francis Abodo, has lined up 14 witnesses, with OPM Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana as the principal witness.

Kazinda, a key suspect in the fraud, is said to have committed the offences during the 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 financial years. Represented by McDusman Kabega and Isaac Walukagga, Kazinda will begin his defence before Justice David Wangutusi. First arrested in July 2012, Kazinda faces two separate sets of charges. The second set, which he faces with three others, was adjourned to January next year and will be heard by Chief Magistrate Irene Akankwasa.

In a police statement made on July 24, 2012, Kazinda says all charges against him are unfounded and baseless. He says they were fabricated during his sick leave.

"During my term as a principal accountant [from July 14, 2007], I received two awards as a best performing employee of the ministry in 2008 and 2012. The article in the press that claims there was money missing was fake because from June 3, 2012, I requested for sick leave from the PS which leave he granted on June 4, 2012 ending on July 8, 2012," Kazinda says in his statement.

After his sick leave, Kazinda who was interdicted on August 10, 2012, says he was transferred to the ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and was given up to the end of August 2012 by the Accountant General to hand over to a new Principal Accountant, Kenneth Mugume, who was already in office. He says the transfer of the Senior Accountant Yahaya Kasolo happened at the same time.

In the same statement, Kazinda denies forging any signature, more so that of Bigirimana, despite the fact that documents recovered from his residence in Ntinda, during a police search, had the signatures of the PS.

"As for the signatures on the rest of the blank cash withdraw authorization forms to BoU, I can confirm that Mr Bigirimana endorsed them personally. This was his emergency arrangement strategy in case he is out of the country. Given that I was out long on sick leave, my office could easily be accessed by other people," says Kazinda, who does not properly explain how the documents reached his home.

Nsibambi vehicle

Kazinda says the registration book No. 677096, in the names of Prof. Robin Apollo Nsibambi (former prime minister) found in the room of his relative Peter Lubuulwa, belongs to a motor vehicle Reg. No. UAN 270R, which his mother Teopista Nanfuka bought from the former premier.

"The reason as to why the documents from the office were in Lubuulwa's room was that they were given to him to pass them to my driver in order to take them to my office. I was surprised they were found in Lubuulwa's room, and I can't recall when they left my office," Kazinda said.

In his statement, Bigirimana says Kazinda established an office at the Postel building, which he used to make all the alleged forgeries. But Kazinda, who had about 14 Accounts staff, denies this. He says office superintendent Mpanga allocated him an extra office to accommodate intern students.

Kazinda denies owning the vehicle and houses that have previously appeared in the media as his. He, however, acknowledges owning a quarter an acre of land at Kitala, Entebbe road, and a bank account No. 0100519003 in Bank of Africa

Other witnesses expected to pin Kazinda include an accountant in OPM, Arthur Mumanyire, Accounts Assistant Isaiah Oonyu, Senior Accountant Musiiho Byekwaso, D/ASP Patrick Tusiime, Detective Constable S. Angaia, attached to Kira Road police station, UCB Defense Secretary Stephen Kizza and Ronald Ochom, a carpenter who broke one of the doors of his residence.

Exhibits to be tendered in as exhibits for prosecution include, security papers, various internal memos, a confidential letter by Bigirimana to the Accountant General on the unsatisfactory conduct of Kazinda dated January 28, 2011, a hand writing expert report and a search certificate.

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