18 January 2013

Uganda: Mukula Guilty of Embezzling Gavi Funds

Soroti municipality MP Mike Mukula has been sentenced to four years in prison after he was found guilty embezzling of Shs 210m of the Global Alliance Vaccine (GAVI) funds by Chief Magistrate Irene Akankwasa of the Anti-Corruption Court.

It is still unclear if Mukula will appeal against the sentence in the High Court. If he loses his appeal and is jailed for longer than six months, Mukula could lose his parliamentary seat.

While serving as minister of state for Health (General Duties), Mukula allegedly requisitioned and signed for Shs 263m on behalf of the First Lady, Janet Museveni, which money was part of Gavi (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) funds donated to Uganda for treatment of children infected with HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.

Up to Shs 1.6bn of the fund was allegedly misappropriated, and the Health ministers at the time were held culpable, among other individuals. The other ministers were Jim Muhwezi (Health) and Dr Alex Kamugisha (state for Primary Healthcare).

However, court, on July 31 2012, ruled that Muhwezi and Kamugisha had no case to answer, but Mukula, who accounted for Shs 53m, was told to explain the whereabouts of Shs 210m.

At the time Mukula said: "On my part, I'm certain I have no case to answer because even the [Health] Permanent Secretary, Lukwago, recently told Parliament that there was no loss occasioned to government as far as Gavi funds are concerned, but we shall go through the due process and convince not only court but the whole world," Mukula said.

Akankwasa said during today's ruling that since Mukula embezzled funds earmarked for support of HIV/AIDS patients and victims he deserved no mercy and his conviction should serve as a deterrent to other civil servants who have gradually made it a habit to help themselves to public funds.

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