Kampala — The Anti-Corruption Court yesterday sentenced two former Finance ministry officials, who were arrested for soliciting a bribe from an investor in 2017, to two years in prison and banned them from holding public office for 10 years after serving their jail term.
Former principal finance officer John Charles Ogol and Geoffrey Turyamuhika, alias Tumwine, a senior economist, were convicted of corruption for receiving a gratification of $50,000 (about Shs186m) from a one Hassan Sserunjogi on March 27, 2017.
The convicts received the money to expedite documentation for financing the construction of a power substation and transmission line at Osukuru Phosphate project in Tororo District.
Ogol and Turyamuhika were also fined Shs4.8m each. The judge reasoned that the punishments were aimed at balancing the efforts of the state to fight corruption and the hardships dependants would have when the convicts are incarcerated.
"I am inclined to impose a sentence that would communicate the message that corruption if proven in this court would attract punishment. At the same time, the sentence would not be such as to keep away the convicts from supporting their families for too long considering that what they had received as a bribe was seized and exhibited in court," the trial judge Lawrence Gidudu ruled.
"The court would not impose a sentence that is laughable to the extent that it would encourage persons to commit the same crime hoping that they would walk in and out even after being convicted without being scratched as a constant reminder that corruption is bad," he added.
The court also ordered that the money exhibited in court be returned to State House Comptroller while the convicts be given their bail money of Shs8m and their handheld phones be returned to them.
Ogol, 59, and Turyamuhika, 38, were technical officers at the Finance ministry responsible for handling issues concerning investors.
Court heard that the investor trading as Guangzhou Dongsongh Energy Group Uganda Limited wanted to establish a factory at Osukuru in Tororo to manufacture phosphates and other products.
The investor needed power to run the factory complex but government did not have ready money to build a power substation.
The indictment shows that the investor was willing to finance the power project if government could guarantee to refund its money.
Justice Gidudu said the challenge seems to have arisen when the investor wanted to move faster because of the pressure it had from its bankers who had advanced loans that it was not utilising yet it was subject to paying interest.
"The convicts saw an opportunity to make quick buck and demanded to be paid a bribe upfront. When a deposit of $50,000 was paid, they shared it out," he said.
However, Justice Gidudu acquitted the convicts on the charge of corruption in connection with soliciting another gratification of $300,000 (about Shs1.1b) from Sserunjogi.
"The prosecution did not address me on the irregularity in their final submissions. It is my conclusion that the prosecution did not prove the charges against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt," he ruled.