30 January 2013

Uganda: Kazinda Trial - Prosecution Ambushed

The fraud trial of interdicted Principal Accountant Geoffrey Kazinda kicked off yesterday in dramatic style at the Anti-Corruption court in Kololo.

An unprepared prosecution presented two unprepared witnesses. The prosecutors, led by Principal state attorney Jane Frances Abodo and State Attorney Paul Lakidi, were in court yesterday simply to hear from Dr Kennedy Nangaki of Mulago hospital whether Kazinda was fit to stand trial. Indeed, Dr Nangaki confirmed that Kazinda, who had walked into court unaided, was fit to face trial.

And then, Justice David Wangutusi demanded for the State's first witness, taking the prosecution completely unawares. Abodo was forced to summon Kazinda's successor at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Kenneth Mugumya to the stand.

Mugumya, confirmed to court that he took office from Kazinda last July, although he received no official handover because his predecessor was away on sick leave. Asked by Kazinda's lawyer Macdusman Kabega whether he knew anything about the case, Mugumya, 35, confessed he was like a fish out of water.

"My lord, I'm green about the accusations brought against him," he said.

With nothing more to offer, Mugumya left the stand for the principal personnel officer in OPM, Grace Nalumu, who testified that she was unaware that by the time Kazinda was interdicted, he was on sick leave. Nalumu said Kazinda had not followed normal procedure before taking his leave, although the former principal accountant had indicated that his leave was sanctioned by Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana.

"Normally the process starts with the officer bringing the application to me as the Human resource Manager. The application must have a medical form attached to it. In this case, that wasn't done; so, I can say Mr Kazinda wasn't on leave," she said.

When asked by Kabega how Kazinda, who joined the civil service in 1996, was quickly promoted to the position of Principal Accountant, Nalumu attributed this to meritocracy.

"In civil service, merit as always followed, so I think that is how he was promoted because he was performing well," she said, before ending her testimony.

Previously, the prosecution had planned to start its testimony with Bigirimana explaining how Kazinda forged several documents in a bid to swindle billions of shillings from the OPM.

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