The results of the investigation, which will be done by the police, the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU), and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), could lead to criminal charges being brought against those responsible.
“We expect this team to build on the preliminary investigations that have already been done and to work more closely with sister agencies like the Office of the Inspectorate of Government and the parliamentary team that is also looking into this,” Police Spokesman Fred Enanga said yesterday.
The start of a scandal
Investigators from the State House found out last month that iron sheets and other aid items meant for Karamoja had been taken somewhere else. This led to the arrest of some family members of line minister Mary Goretti Kitutu.
Documents seen by this newspaper show that the iron sheets were shared and taken from the stores of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), where the Karamoja ministry is based, based on verbal communication and instructions sent through the social media platform WhatsApp, which is against public service rules.
In a letter to the Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi, the OPM’s senior inventory management officer said he regretted the mistake, which led investigators to find that aides to ministers and other political leaders took hundreds or even thousands of iron sheets meant for Karamoja from government stores and gave them out as they saw fit.
Several Cabinet ministers, including First Deputy Prime Minister Rebecca Kadaga and Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, have said they got the roofing materials but never asked for them.
Mr Amos Lugoloobi, who is the State Minister for Planning at the Ministry of Finance, recently took pre-painted iron sheets off an animal shed on his farm. He did this because the sheets were made for Karamojongs, which he called “evil.” Later, he told the people who voted for him that he wasn’t a thief because he didn’t break into the store to get the iron sheets.
Questions about the irregular distribution of the relief items put minister Kitutu and her junior Agnes Nanduttu, both recipients, into the eye of a storm as Parliament began an inquest. During the investigation, the Karamoja Parliamentary Group asked that the two-step down.
Ms Kitutu apologised to Ugandans and the President for not having good judgement because she didn’t have the right guidance. She also said she was committed to serving Karamoja, but a lawmaker from the area said she wasn’t welcome.
Sources say that the scandal was the main topic of discussion in the Cabinet on Monday and that President Museveni asked for answers. Since then, a number of ministers and technocrats in the OPM have given statements to investigators at the State House.
Mr Enanga said that the president has now asked for all of the ongoing investigations to be put together into one criminal investigation.
“We’re going to talk to everyone involved to make sure the investigation goes quickly, and now that we have a task force in place, we’ll keep the public informed as we go along,” he said.
The criminal investigations are starting a few days before President Museveni’s planned speech to Parliament on Thursday of this week. No one knows what he will talk about.