TOWARDS the end of his term in the Sixth Parliament, the MP of Bukoto West, Mulindwa Birimumaaso, was charged with abuse of office and sentenced to one year in jail. Birimumaaso, who was the director of mobilisation for women, youth and interest groups at the Movement Secretariat, received sh24m for
TOWARDS the end of his term in the Sixth Parliament, the MP of Bukoto West, Mulindwa Birimumaaso, was charged with abuse of office and sentenced to one year in jail.
Birimumaaso, who was the director of mobilisation for women, youth and interest groups at the Movement Secretariat, received sh24m for fuel to conduct a mobilisation programme in Bundibugyo district. However, he instead diverted the money for private use. Birimumaaso allegedly applied for the money on June10, 1999 and he received it in installments of three cheques.
Joy Katugue, a cashier at Bank of Uganda, testified that she gave Birimumaaso a cheque of sh20m. She told court that the money was released to him after fulfilling the procedures required.
Mohamed Kegaala, who was permanent secretary at the NRM said Birimumaaso had the duty to account for the funds given to him before the end of the financial year in which it was released. He said the funds were meant for specific activities and there was a clear breakdown on how the money was to be spent.
Tom Matte, the then under secretary of the Movement Secretariat, said he did not receive any accountability from Birimumaaso. Matte said the documents submitted for accountability were rejected because they were mixed up with other regular monthly advances for routine office work.
Matte told court that Birimumaaso had been given enough time within which to account for the money but he had failed to.
Juliet Karubeiza, a sales representative at Shell Capital, testified that she had handled a cheque of sh2.3m from Birimumaaso who instructed her to transfer sh500,000 to another fuel account belonging to Mathias Kasaija. She told court that private vehicles drew fuel from the account; and by June 30, 1999, there was only a balance of sh434, 000 left.
Maj. Ronald Kakooza Mutale, a special Presidential advisor, admitted to having received sh5m from Birimumaaso on June19. Mutale said he was given an order book to draw fuel from Shell worth sh1m to be used for â€˜classifiedâ€™ activities.
An officer from the Auditor Generalâ€™s office, Teddy Nkenje, said she carried out an audit and discovered that the money was never accounted for.
Another prosecution witness, Edward Ndyanabo, who was the Bundibugyo district Movement chairman, testified that there was no mobilisation exercise in the district as planned.
The Bundibugyo resident district commissioner at the time, Edward Maniga, told court that he received sh1,654,000 from Birimumaaso for fuel at Shell Kabarole.
Elias Talisuna, the principal assistant secretary in charge of transport testified that Birimumaasoâ€™s official vehicle was a Mitsubishi Pajero that had a diesel engine. He, therefore, said the evidence that Birimumaaso drew petrol for his official vehicle was not true.
Principal state attorney Vincent Wegonde said as soon as Birimumaaso received the funds on June19, 1999, he deposited it on a private account at Shell and started using it, claiming he was going for trips to Bundibugyo.
However, he said, by June 20, over 48 other private vehicles had taken fuel in Birimumaasoâ€™s name.
Wegonde said after receiving the sh24m Birimumaaso never set foot in Bundibugyo and did not account for the money or carry out any activity for which the money was disbursed.
Birimumaasoâ€™s lawyer, Nsubuga Mubiru, said the charges were brought in bad faith, because failure to submit accountability was not a criminal offence.
He said his client had been put under undue pressure to give accountability for the funds, adding that Birimumaaso had written to the Auditor General asking for more time to submit his accountability, which request was accepted.
Mubiru said his client could not have accounted for the money before the close of the financial year because the funds were released towards the end of the financial year.
Birimumaaso admitted that he requisitioned for the funds, totalling to sh24m for fuel, although the account on which the money was deposited at Shell was a personal fuel account. Birimumaaso said the account had some money on it by time he deposited the cheque, but he denied giving Mathias Kasaija sh500,000 from the account.
Chief Magistrate Frank Nigel Othembi said Birimumaasoâ€™s actions were prejudicial to his employer because of the immediate loss he caused and of the bad example he set for his subordinates.
In his ruling, Othembi said other members who also received part of the money misused it because Birimumaaso had set a bad example.
Othembi ruled that the prosecution failed to prove its case against Birimumaaso regarding how the money was misused.
He noted that, as a senior Government official, Birimumaaso abused his office by depositing funds meant for official fuel onto his personal account. â€œFor the reason given I find prosecution has proved the case beyond reasonable doubt as required by law. I convict the accused of abuse of office and sentence him to one yearâ€™s imprisonment,â€ Othembi ruled.
Birimumaaso appealed to the High Court, but also lost the appeal on February 4, 2003.
Who is Birimumaaso?
Born 48 years ago, Mulindwa Birimumaaso was elected Bukoto West MP, in Masaka district in 1996. He was a member of the defence and internal affairs committee between 1996 and 1997 before he joined the committee on Presidential affairs where he served up to 1999.
Birimumaaso was also a member of the Constituent Assembly from 1994 to 1995. He once worked as external assistant of finance and in the External Security Organisation.
Birimumaaso persistently stood by his party the National Resistance Movement (NRM), even when he received little support from it during his trial.
On August 27, 2002, Birimumaaso was sentenced to jail over abuse of office. He was among the 92 prisoners pardoned by the President but lost his seat as MP.
According to the Parliamentary Act, once an MP is sentenced to over nine months in jail without option of a fine, that MP automatically loses the seat.
Birimumaaso is currently a businessman in Kalangala and is expected to stand for MP in 2011.
MP Birimumaaso loses seat over corruption