Three Ugandan ministers step down ahead of corruption charges

Three Ugandan ministers step down ahead of corruption charges
# 13 October 2011 00:51 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Three top Ugandan government ministers announced on Wednesday afternoon that they were stepping down ahead of their trial before the anti-corruption court in the capital Kampala on Thursday, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s foreign affairs minister, John Nasasira, the government chief whip and Mwesigwa Rukutana, the state minister for labour, employment and Industrial relations announced their joint decision as they prepare to appear before the anti- corruption court on Thursday over charges of corruption and abuse of office.

The three are facing charges of corruption and abuse office related with the preparation of the Common Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held here in 2007

"Tomorrow (Thursday) we are appearing before the court to answer to charges of causing financial loss arising out of our official duties on CHOGM. We shall definitely take the opportunity to plead our innocence and demonstrate that we are not guilty of the offences charged," the ministers said in a joint statement.

"We have, in order to allow for the due process of the court, which we highly believe in, and in the interest of the party which we belong and the government which we serve deemed it prudent and desirable to seek leave from our Appointing Authority so as to step aside until the matter is concluded."

The trio are set to appear before the anti-corruption magistrate court on Thursday in the capital Kampala on charges of abuse of office and causing financial loss of over 14 billion Uganda shillings in preparations for CHOGM.

It is alleged that the trio irregularly convened a consultative sub-committee on behalf of the Cabinet Sub Committee on CHOGM where they decided that the government would fund the construction of drives ways, parking areas and Marinas at Munyonyo Speke Hotel in the capital Kampala without authorization.

It is also alleged that the officials irregularly committed the government to funding the construction at 14 billion Ugandan shillings, well knowing that such a commitment would cause a financial loss.

Nassasira was the works and transport minister then while Rukutana was state minister for finance.

Uganda’s former vice president Gilbert Bukenya was on Wednesday granted bail after spending eight days in prison over alleged fraudulent purchase of vehicles and motor cycles during CHOGM that caused the government to lose about 4 million U.S. dollars.

Bukenya is charged with two counts of abuse of office and fraudulent practice in relation to awarding of contracts for the purchase of vehicles and motorcycles intended for use during the 2007 CHOGM held here.

The IGG, the government’s anti-corruption agency, says that Bukenya flouted procurement procedures in the purchase of executive cars and supply of 80 units of Police Outrider motorcycles.

Bukenya who is one of the high government officials implicated in the scam has since denied the two counts of abuse of office.

Bukenya who served for eight years was charged on June 16, barely three weeks after being dropped from office.

The East African government has come under increased pressure from donor countries and the opposition to prosecute top government officials who were implicated in the CHOGM financial scandal.

The ministers’ resignation came barely a day after Ugandan legislators on Tuesday demanded for the resignation of three top government ministers for alleged soliciting and receiving bribes in the country’s oil sharing and production agreements signed with foreign companies.

In their motion, the legislators demanded for the resignation of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Sam Kutesa, the foreign affairs minister and Hilary Onek, the internal affairs minister to pave the way for investigations into their alleged dubious activities.