OPM officials in COVID-19 relief food scandal charged afresh
Four OPM officials who are accused of allegedly inflating prices of food meant for the vulnerable poor under the COVID-19 food relief program; have formally entered a plea of not guilty before the Anticorruption court denying all the 24 counts that include Abuse of Office, fraudulent false accounting and Corruption.
Three of the accused persons who include PS Guwatudde Christine Kintu, the Head Procurement Unit Lutimba Kyeyune Fred and the Under Secretary- Joel Wanjala had refused to take plea on the charge of Fraudulent False Accounting saying it was incurably defective as it did not spell out the exact offence for which they have to prepare a defence.
But Presiding Magistrate Sarah Namusobya overruled Defence Lawyer Mcdusman’s Kabega’s objection and concurred with Prosecution’s James Khauka that; until the Court has heard the evidence in respect of this case; its premature for the court to determine a defective charge sheet at this state.
The Magistrate then ordered all the four accused persons including Commissioner in charge of relief Disaster Preparedness and Head of the covid 19 Relief Management- Martin Owor to respond to all the charges preferred against them; and they all denied the allegation.
They re-applied for bail earlier granted to them by Buganda road court because there they had been charged with only one count of Colluding to commit a fraudulent practice; and the same has been re-instated in the 3mshs cash bail each already paid.
Other Conditions were to deposit their passports with court together with original certificates of title in their names while Guwatudde’s surities and those of Kyeyune have been ordered to sign a noncash bond of 200mshs, those of Wanjala must sign a non cash bond of 100mshs and those of Owor should sign anoncash bond of 50mshs under taking to ensure that the accused persons attend trial.
The accused persons have been ordered to report back to court on 27th/August/2020 as investigations into their case continue.
Prosecution alleges that in abuse of the authority of their respective offices; Guwatudde and Kyeyune prepared and issued an award letter to various companies to supply maize, beans, milk, sugar amounting to 32.340.000.000 billion shs in total disregard of the procurement procedure
They allegedly committed the Offence between 31st/March and 9th/April/2020 at OPM offices along Sir Apollo Kaggwa road from where Lutimba Kyeyune Fred is further alleged to have neglected to perform his duty of advising the contracts committee on procurement procedures which omission amounted to Corruption.
Guwatudde Christine, Lutimba Kyeyune Fred and the Under Secretary- Joel Wanjala are also alleged to have fraudulently made or were privy to making a false entry in an award letter for several companies to supply COVID-19 relief food items; purporting that the same entry was allocated by the OPM contracts committee whereas not.
These three are again jointly charged with Martin Owor for colluding to commit a fraudulent practice.
However they mantain they are innocent till proved guilty.