Nandutu’s Trial in Karamoja Iron Sheets Scandal Kicks off

The Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala has commenced the trial of State Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Agnes Nandutu, who stands accused of posession of  suspected property belonging to a Karamoja iron sheets project.

The prosecution alleges that during June 2022, at the office of the Prime Minister’s Stores in Namanve and Kkola Cell Bulwanyi Parish, Mukono District, Nandutu dealt with government property consisting of 2,000 pre-painted iron sheets Gauge 28.

She is accused of receiving and holding these iron sheets, which the prosecution claims were obtained as a result of the loss of public property, an offense falling under Section 10 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2000 as amended.

The trial is presided over by Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga. During the proceedings, the prosecution presented its first witness, Evelyn Hilda Bazibu, a political assistant to Nandutu and a program scheduler at a local television station (NTV). Bazibu testified that she received and signed the disputed iron sheets on behalf of Nandutu in June 2021.

She claims that Nandutu informed her that the iron sheets were intended as relief items for the people affected by landslides in Bududa. Bazibu stated that upon arriving at the Prime Minister’s Stores in Namanve, she oversaw the loading of the iron sheets onto a truck. Each bundle contained 12 pieces, and the total count was 200 bundles, constituting the said 2,000 pieces of iron sheets.

Subsequently, Bazibu was asked by an official at the store to follow them to the office, where she was presented with an Excel sheet containing a list of names, districts, constituencies, and the number of sheets allocated to each person.

She located Nandutu’s name, signed alongside it using her political ID, and signed a voucher confirming receipt of 2,000 iron sheets. Bazibu further testified that after approximately two weeks, Nandutu instructed her to transport the iron sheets to her farm in Seeta as the beneficiaries in Bududa had not yet been organized.

The prosecution’s main argument revolves around the contention that the iron sheets, procured by the government as part of a program to restore peace in Karamoja, did not reach the intended beneficiaries, causing a loss of government property.

Earlier on Justice Kajuga issued a directive prohibiting video recording and publication of images from the court proceedings to prevent potential intimidation of witnesses and avoid a miscarriage of justice.  She, however, said that the press is free to attend and obtain audio recordings for reporting purposes.

The directive stemmed from an application made by State Attorney David Bisamunyu to the court to regulate media coverage. Bisamunyu who was accompanied by State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya said the right to information should be balanced to protect their two witnesses, especially given the relationship they have with the accused Minister.

Nandutu is represented by a legal team comprising Evans Ochieng and Nandah Wamukota. The trial is scheduled to continue with the testimony of a second witness after the lunch break.

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