The Inspectorate of Government (IG) has announced that top government officials involved in the illegal acquisition of iron sheets intended for the Karamoja Sub-region will face prosecution.
The deputy inspector General of Government (D/IGG), Dr Patricia Achan Okiria, told this publication that they have written to the accused, including Cabinet ministers, requesting written explanations. “Those who violate laws and policies will be prosecuted,” she said.
Citizens have complained that the institution only targets mukene (silver fish), a nickname for lower-level government employees, but “now the big fish have presented themselves,” according to the deputy government Ombudsman.
“We will not be shy because when we took the oath [of office], we pledged to support this country and do our jobs without fear or favour,” Dr Okiria said on March 14.
The Inspectorate expanded on the investigations launched by the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU) after President Museveni directed police and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to collaborate and conduct criminal investigations.
Section 15(5) of the Inspectorate of Government Act, 2002, gives the anti-graft body “power to investigate, cause investigation, arrest, cause arrest, prosecute or cause prosecution in respect of cases involving corruption, abuse of authority or of public office”.
Among officials, the Ombudsman tasked to explain their roles in the iron sheet saga are senior ministers and Ms Munira Ali, the IG spokesperson, said they were given seven days to act and “some are already responding”.
SHACU discovered irregularities last month when thousands of pre-painted G28 iron sheets purchased with emergency government funds for the vulnerable in the Karamoja Sub-region ended up in the hands of ministers.
During the course of the investigation, State House detectives arrested members of Karamoja Affairs Minister Goretti Kitutu’s family for allegedly selling the branded roofing materials.
Documents obtained by this publication from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), where the Karamoja ministry is based, show that Ms Kitutu requested the iron sheets whose distribution has been questioned.
For example, in a January 12 memo to the Under-Secretary for Finance and Administration/Accounting Officer (US/F&A/AO), the minister, while referencing an earlier November 4, 2022 memo, noted she was due to conduct mobilisation and peace-building missions to Karamoja in the third quarter of the current fiscal year (January-March).
“During community mobilisation and peace-building missions, I usually meet vulnerable groups and Karachunas (youth), who are willing to dissociate themselves from rustling. “I will distribute iron sheets to such special vulnerable groups as part of my intervention,” she wrote.
Contrary to public standing service orders on government property management, those iron sheets were distributed to recipients via verbal and WhatsApp message instructions after the accounting officer approved the requisition. By the time the exercise was called off, at least 5,000 pieces had been distributed.
Unnamed political executives and top technocrats have already given statements to State House investigators.
The anomalies prompted Parliament’s Presidential and Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Adjumani District Woman MP Jesca Ababiku, whose planned fact-finding trip to Karamoja has fallen behind schedule.
Ms Ababiku was unavailable yesterday to explain the reason for the delay, but Busia District Woman MP Hellen Wandera, who is on the committee, said their journey will be preceded by a planning meeting today. She refused to give any details.
Members of the Karamoja Parliamentary Group, led by MP Remigio Achia, told the committee two weeks ago that Minister Kitutu and her junior, journalist-turned-politician Agnes Nandutu, should resign.
Ms Nandutu previously denied any wrongdoing when the scandal first broke, and she has since said nothing about new revelations. Ms Kitutu, on the other hand, issued a written public apology to Ugandans and President Museveni, her appointing authority, acknowledging missteps she blamed on a lack of proper guidance.
She did, however, emphasise her commitment to serving Karamoja, where area legislators and local government leaders have said she is unwelcome.
President Museveni reportedly chastised ministers implicated in the iron sheet saga and demanded answers during a Cabinet meeting on March 6.
A week earlier, on February 28, Speaker of Parliament Anita Among, who had previously acknowledged receiving hundreds of the iron sheets through Parliament spokesperson Chris Obore, said other government leaders should not be drawn into the saga and that those responsible should bear their “own cross.”
According to an internal OPM memo, some of the notable beneficiaries included First Deputy Prime Minister/East African Community Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga, Third Deputy Premier Rukia Nakadama, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and his junior Amos Lugoloobi.
State Defence Minister Jacob Oboth-Oboth, State Primary Education Minister Moriku Kaducu, Government Chief Whip Hamson Obua, and junior Agriculture Minister Bwiino Kyakulaga are among those who have been appointed.
Ms Among confirmed receipt of iron sheets in her constituency in a statement to the House on February 28 but claimed she never requested them.
“I saw iron sheets in Bukedea but did not request them. I ordered that they be given to schools in an innocent manner. “I didn’t open a shop to sell them, but they were distributed to schools,” she explained.
Despite the fact that other ministers are implicated in the scandal, Ms Among, like the legislators from the Karamoja Sub-region, believes Ms Kitutu should provide answers.
The minister is accused of overseeing the diversion of over 5,000 iron sheets intended for Karamoja, as well as the alleged undersupply of goats at inflated prices. Hundreds of the animals arrived sick and unvaccinated, according to Karamoja legislators, and have since died.
As the investigation progressed, minister Lugoloobi removed the iron sheets from a shed on his farm and has since stated, including in a speech to his constituents, that he is not a thief because he never broke into the stores to obtain the iron sheets.