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Court Extends Criminal Summons Against Kitutu Over Shs 1.5 Billion Loss

The Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala has extended its criminal summons against Karamoja Affairs Minister Mary Goretti Kitutu Kimono requiring her to appear in court on March 19th 2024 and be charged with causing government financial loss of 1.5 billion shillings.

The summons which were initially issued last month were on Thursday extended by the Acting Senior Principal Grade One Magistrate Abert Asiimwe after Kitutu failed to show up on medical grounds.

The same Court has also extended summons for one of Kitutu’s Co accused Tracy Atuhirwe an Accountant from Office of the Prime Minister after the Prosecution’s William Moses Ntumwa informed the Court that although they extracted the summons, they have not been able to serve her.

The Prosecution case is that between February and June, 2022 while performing her duties as Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Kitutu failed to conduct various peace building activities in the Karamoja sub region knowing or having reason to believe that her omission would cause financial loss and that indeed, it allegedly caused loss of Uganda shillings 1,555,365,000 to the Government of Uganda.

Kitutu is being charged together with Geoffrey Sseremba, the Secretary/Accounting Officer, Deogratius Masagazi – Under Secretary/Head of Department, Pacification and Development Programme, Tracy Atuhirwe, an Accountant, all are officials from Office of the Prime Minister.

The summons followed last month’s amendment of charges by the Inspectorate of Government against seven OPM officials dropping five of them and maintaining two including Sseremba and Masagazi who are now facing charges of corruption .

It is alleged that they authorized a total cash payment of 2,230,291,000 shillings to various staff within the Office of the Prime Minister including Kitutu which they obtained for the benefits for themselves after Atuhirwe had failed to properly manage and account for it. When the matter came up today, Sseremba and Masagazi were in Court but Kitutu and Atuhirwe were absent.

Prosecution informed the Court that when Kitutu was issued with Court summons, she choose to challenge her Prosecution and she was not successful.

The High Court Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga last week dismissed Kitutu’s application seeking to set aside her trial in this case on the basis that it has no Nexus/connection to the case in which she is accused of diverting more than 14,500 iron sheets that were meant for the vulnerable people of Karamoja.

Kitutu had argued before Kajuga that the 1.5 billion case is arising from a similar set of transaction of 39 billion shillings supplementary budget that was intended to buy goats, iron sheets and for other peace building activities which was already investigated and charges instituted against her. But Kajuga declined to agree with her, paving way for her Prosecution in the case that came up today.

As such, State Attorney Ntumwa has told Court that they expected Kitutu to appear and take plea. However , that they have received a letter from her lawyers of J Byamukama Advocates stating she is sick and thus asked for extension of summons to enable her get on board.

On his part, Jude Byamukama who is Kitutu’s lawyer has told the Magistrate that his client is suffering from high blood pressure . But he is hopeful that in a month’s time or 45 days she will be in position to come and take plea unless otherwise.

Other accused persons protested the proposed long adjournment saying that the case has now spent eight months without trial commencing which affects their right to a speedy hearing.

In his ruling, Magistrate Asiimwe has adjourned the case to March 19th 2024 wishing Kitutu a quick recovery saying the Court needs to try a healthy person. He said although no man has control over sickness, he advised Kitutu’s lawyers to make sure that she attends the next court session.

Asiimwe then gave hope to Kitutu’s Co accused who have been coming to Court that when she takes plea, hearing will be expedited and it will not take longer for them to know their fate. He also directed the Prosecution to prepare committal papers if the matter will be handled by the High Court and inform his Court on the next session.

Kitutu has since appealed against Lady Justice Kajuga’s decision that okayed her Prosecution in this separate case file from the iron sheets case.

She argues that she is a Minister whose role involved making policies but not doing technical work that is supposed to be done by the technocrats like the accountants and besides this, she has never requested for funds to go to the field to conduct peace building activities in Karamoja,” says Kitutu.

She adds that “I am not a technical person and do not therefore get involved in the technical aspects of this role. My role as a Minister is to give policy guidance and not to get directly involved in implementation of activities. I am sure this is well known to the IGG who herself was a Cabinet Minister less than two years ago.”

-URN

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