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Chopper Panel Cleared Mbonye But Not Saleh

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th December 2002 03:00 AM

An inter-ministerial panel appointed by the Cabinet to review the Ssebutinde helicopter report, cleared Dr. Ben Mbonye. Ssebutinde had recommended that Mbonye be dismissed from public service.

An inter-ministerial panel appointed by the Cabinet to review the Ssebutinde helicopter report, cleared Dr. Ben Mbonye. Ssebutinde had recommended that Mbonye be dismissed from public service.

By Emmy Allio
An inter-ministerial panel appointed by the Cabinet to review the Ssebutinde helicopter report, cleared Dr. Ben Mbonye. Ssebutinde had recommended that Mbonye be dismissed from public service.

The panel, however, upheld the recommendationto prosecute Lt. Gen. Salim Saleh for his role in the helicopter scandal.

Sources said the panel comprised technocrats from the defence, justice, public service, finance and ethics and integrity ministries.

Sources said the committee was set to advise the Cabinet and particularly the defence minister over the matter.

The committee’s recommendations formed the basis of a draft white paper which defence minister Amama Mbabazi prepared.

The paper has been with the Cabinet for two months pending debate.

Sources that the defence minikstry requested Saleh and Mbonye to file new defence after the panel found that Ssebutinde had been too harsh on the two.

“The minister was in order. Ssebutinde was certainly too harsh on the two. There was nothing unusual,” a source said.

“It is upon this basis that both Saleh and Mbonye submitted their defences,” the sources said.

They said Saleh’s explanation was deemed “lousy” and seriously contradicted President Yoweri Museveni’s explanation to the Ssebutinde commission.

Museveni told the commission that he ordered Saleh to use the bribe money from Emma Katto, whose firm procured the helicopters, for operational expenses in northern Uganda.
But Saleh, in his submission to the committee, said he used the money for poverty alleviation or to “fight biting poverty and lack of economic opportunities in the north.”

The commission, which was chaired by lady Justice Julia Ssebutinde, started its probe into the controversial 1997 purchase of the MI-24 helicopters gun-ships in April 2001 and ended it in June the same year.

The committee upheld Ssebutinde’s recommendation to prosecute Salim Saleh, ace rally driver-cum-businessman Emma Katto and Saleh’s aide-de-camp, Kwame Ruyondo. Katto’s off-shore company, Consolidated Sales Corporation (CSC), supplied two of four helicopters.

The committee, however, cleared Amama Mbabazi, Dr. Mbonye and Col. Kiiza Besigye, the then UPDF Chief of Logistics and Engineering. It said their role was limited to the speedy implementation of Museveni’s directive.

The Ssebutinde report said Saleh exhibited the highest form of greed, self-interest and corruption. It criticised his confession that Katto offered him $800,000 (sh1.4b) bribe. The report said Saleh offered the contract to Katto because of the inducement of $800,000.

The report said the inducements offered to Saleh and Ruyondo jeopardised transparency, eliminated healthy competition and guaranteed contractual terms that favoured the seller rather than the buyer.

The Ssebutinde report criticised Museveni for advising Saleh to take the bribe from Katto, and then use it for military operational expenses in the north.

Ethics and integrity minister Miria Matembe said publication of the report before it was first discussed and sanctioned by the Cabinet was wrong.

Recently, Mbabazi told The New Vision that a White Paper on the report was being compiled and was soon to be tabled in the Cabinet.

“As far as I am concerned, minister Mbabazi prepared a White Paper for the Cabinet which was to be discussed last week. I am on leave and I do not know whether it was discussed or not,” Matembe said.

“Until the Cabinet discuses the report and passes it, the document is not yet a public document. After the Cabinet passes it, action will be taken on those implicated and there will be no need to hide the report,” she said.
Ends

Chopper Panel Cleared Mbonye But Not Saleh

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