Karamoja Iron Sheets: According to police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), additional government officials and ministers are anticipated to be charged in court for cases related to the Karamoja iron sheets scandal.
Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson says that the DPP’s charges are based on extensive police investigations and that more suspects are anticipated to appear in court.
“We conducted a number of interviews, and we anticipate submitting all case files to the DPP by the following week. The file of the honourable [Mary Goretti] Kitutu was nearly complete when she was detained from Parliament on Thursday, Minister of Karamoja Affairs Enanga said.
Ms Jacquelyn Okui, the spokesperson for the DPP, stated, “The scandal is being managed in stages, so there are several files for multiple suspects… Hon Kitutu’s file was the first to be submitted. We anticipate that the police will submit additional suspect files, which will be reviewed by the DPP as they are submitted.”
Ms Kitutu ended up in jail after being charged with two counts of causing loss of public property and conspiracy to defraud by the Anti-Corruption Court. The minister is currently in jail until April 12 at Luzira Prison.
Ms Kitutu was charged alongside her brother, Mr Micheal Naboya Kitutu, who is accused of receiving stolen property in Situmi Village, Bukhawekha Sub-county, Namisindwa District between June 2022 and January 2023. It is alleged that he obtained the iron sheets through illegal means.
While anti-corruption agencies and a portion of Ugandans viewed the arrest of Ms Kitutu and her brother as a positive step in the fight against corruption, other opinions suggested that she was merely a sacrificial lamb.
There were also questions as to why Ms Kitutu’s sibling, who the State House Anti-Corruption Unit had previously arrested, was charged while other recipients who admitted receiving and possessing the iron sheets were not.
Top government officials, including Vice President Jessica Alupo, Parliament Speaker Anita Among, and Prime Minister Robinah Nabanja, have admitted to obtaining iron sheets designed for the vulnerable in the Karamoja Subregion.
According to legal experts, there are a number of technicalities to consider when determining which charges to bring against officials who have denied prior knowledge of the diversion.
“My understanding of the minister’s brother is that he could not account for how he came to be in possession of the mabati (iron sheets) and was therefore charged with receiving stolen property,” a senior attorney said, adding, “In my opinion, any minister found in possession of government stores, i.e. goods with a government mark, would be liable for being in possession of government stores in violation of Section 314 of the Penal Code.”
Mr Kabega stated that the police must “establish possession” of the iron sheets. Then, “it is the possessor’s responsibility to convince law enforcement that his possession is legal.”
“It is the responsibility of the District Attorney to investigate and determine. Each case is decided based on its individual merits. It is not necessarily the case that whoever was discovered with such items must be prosecuted. Mr Henry Kunya, a senior counsel, said, “It may depend on the circumstances under which it came to be.”
Mr Peter Walubiri, an additional seasoned attorney said that the prosecuting agencies would need to show that the named government officials were aware that the iron sheets were being unlawfully diverted. A similar charge cannot be effectively defended without this.
He argued, “Kitutu’s brother is not a government employee, and the iron sheets were clearly marked as government property.” According to what the ministers allege, some ministers who requested iron sheets from the OPM received calls to pick them up. Then they could have had no fear of diversion.”
Mr Amos Lugoloobi, the state minister for planning, may have a different tale to tell, as he used the iron sheets to roof his own animal shelter.
“He did not pretend to provide to use the iron sheets to protect the weak. He was aware that he was using public property for private gain. He might be accused of a more grave offence, such as theft, corruption, or abuse of office. Mr Walubiri stated that the others could utilise the arguments that they donated the iron sheets.
Mr Walubiri believes that the beneficiaries whose defence is that they did not request the iron sheets “are not being truthful” in light of the receipt evidence.
“These ministers are aware that government funds are limited. How do you suddenly receive a donation from the office of the prime minister? It ought to have made you suspicious,” he reasoned.
Ms Pheona Wall, the immediate former president of the Uganda Law Society, states, “Anyone discovered in possession of [the iron sheets] would be at risk. I believe that the police must investigate all of the confessed suspects thoroughly.
Numerous individuals are implicated, and it would be dishonest to only examine those who are convenient to examine. What we witnessed with Hon Kitutu is unprecedented, and we desire an effective criminal justice system. It would be an excellent example to demonstrate that one is not above the law,” she said.
Top government officials, including Vice President Jessica Alupo, House Speaker Anita Among, and Prime Minister Robinah Nabanja, have acknowledged receiving iron sheets intended for the vulnerable in the Karamoja Subregion.