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Thursday,September 24,2020 10:21 AM

Court orders OPM relief food suspects to deposit land tittles

By Farooq Kasule

Added 28th July 2020 08:50 PM

Court orders OPM relief food suspects to deposit land tittles

COURT | OPM 

The Anti-Corruption Court has ordered four officials from the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) accused of inflating prices of COVID-19 relief food to deposit land tittles as security. 

Grade One Magistrate Sarah Namusobya made the directive on Tuesday when the group appeared in court to plead to the charges against them afresh.  

The magistrate ordered them to deposit the land tittles in addition to their passports before close of business on Wednesday,(tomorrow) lest their bail cancelled.  Buganda Road Court had only retained their passports.

"I have considered submission made by the state and the defence lawyers, court notes that ever since the accused appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Court in April have been diligently reporting in court. I therefore maintain the bail granted to them," Namusobya ruled.  

They are Christine Guwatudde, the permanent secretary, Joel Wanjala, the undersecretary, Martin Owor, the commissioner disaster preparedness and Fred Lutimba, the assistant commissioner in charge of procurement.   

The group was initially charged at Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Court and released on bail but their case was later transferred to the Kololo based Anti-Corruption Court, which is better placed to handle corruption related matters.   

Guwatudde and the group are indicted with 24 counts including abuse of office, fraudulent false accounting, corruption and colluding to commit a fraudulent practice contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009 and Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, 2003 as amended.  

They were arrested by State House Anti-Corruption Unit headed by Lt. Col Edith Nakalema in April this year on allegations of inflating COVID-19 relief food prices.  

 Charges  

Prosecution alleges that on April 1, 2020 at the OPM office, Guwatudde and Lutimba did an arbitrary act prejudicial to the interest of their employer.  

They duo is accused of preparing and issuing an  award letter to Aponye (U) Ltd for the supply of 2m kilograms of maize meal at sh3, 000 per kg worth sh6b, as food relief items for COVID-19 in total disregard of the procurement procedures.  

It is further alleged that the accused with intent to defraud made false entry in an award letter to Aponye (U) Ltd to supply 2m kgs of maize meal at sh3, 000 per kg  worth sh6b, as relief food items for covid-19, purporting the same to have been allocated by the OPM Contracts Committee whereas not.  

They are also accused of awarding Mandela Millers Ltd to supply 3m kgs of maize meal at sh3, 000 per kg worth sh9b, as relief items for covid-19, in total disregard of the procurement procedures.  

Lutimba allegedly neglected to perform his duty under the law when he failed to advise the accounting officer in procurement of food relief items for COVID-19 resulting into gross violation of the procurement procedures.  

They further face alternative charge of conspiracy to commit a felony.  The matter has been adjourned to August 27 when the accused will re-appear in court to know the status of investigations. 

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