Six OPM Staff Remanded over Fresh Multi-billion Shillings Scandal

Six staff from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) have been remanded to prison on charges related to the embezzlement of 11 billion Shillings meant for different programs under the Peace Initiative in the Karamoja region.

The six are Deogratious Masigazi, the Under Secretary/head of the Pacification and Development Program, Joshua Abaho, the Senior Assistant Secretary, the Principal Assistant Secretary Barbara Asasira, Emmy Tonny Ameny- the Assistant Commissioner Programs, Peter Amodoi-the Programs Officer, and the Assistant Secretary Samuel Ofungi.

The group that was arrested on Wednesday morning by detectives attached to the office of the Inspector General of Government, appeared before the Acting Senior Principal Magistrate Grade One Abert Asiimwe and was charged with 12 counts of causing financial loss, abuse of office and embezzlement.

They are charged alongside Geoffrey Sseremba, the Undersecretary and Accounting Officer, who was however not in Court today.

It is alleged that between February and June 2022, Sseremba and Masigazi approved a total cash payment of 4,497,132,000 (Four billion, four hundred and ninety-seven million, one hundred and thirty-two thousand) Shillings to various staff without a proper work plan for a genuine activity to be carried out.

The prosecution said they had reason to believe that their acts would cause financial loss and indeed, they caused a loss of 3, 347,491,000 (Three billion, three hundred and forty-seven million, four hundred and ninety-one thousand) Shillings to their employer.

Masigazi and Sseremba have also been charged with abuse of office for having arbitrarily approved the said monies without following guidelines, an act the Prosecution argues is prejudicial to the interest of their employer.

The court has also heard that in June 2022, Joshua Abaho, the other accused person stole 2,473,154,000 (two billion, four hundred and seventy-three million, one hundred and fifty-four thousand Shillings advanced to him for coordinating various peace-building initiatives in the Karamoja region.

According to the Prosecution, Abaho had been given a total cash payment of 2,493,154,000 (two billion, four hundred and ninety-three million, one hundred and fifty-four thousand) Shillings but he never conducted the activities and thus failed to account for 2,473,154,000 (two billion, four hundred and seventy-three million, one hundred and fifty-four thousand) Shillings, which was also an arbitrary act to his employer.

The State further alleges that between April and June 2022, while employed as Principal Assistant Secretary, Barbara Asasira received a total cash payment of 538,526,000 (Five hundred and thirty-eight million, five hundred and twenty-six thousand) Shillings and failed to account for 522,926,000 (Five hundred and twenty-two million, nine hundred and twenty-six thousand) Shillings.

The other accused person; Emmy Tonny Ameny is accused of stealing 225,550,000 (Two hundred and twenty-five million, five hundred and fifty thousand) Shillings which he also accessed by virtue of his office as an Assistant Commissioner of Programmes.

On his part, Peter Amodoi is accused of stealing 100,338,000 (One hundred million, three hundred and thirty-eight thousand) Shillings between March and June 2022, and failing to account for 217, 507, 158 (Two hundred and seventeen million, five hundred and seven thousand, one hundred and fifty-eight) Shillings.

The Prosecution alleges that Samuel Ofungi stole 25, 473, 000 (twenty-five million, four hundred and seventy-three thousand) Shillings using his office as Senior Assistant Secretary. This money was part of an allocation of 69, 298, 000 (sixty-nine million, two hundred and ninety-eight) Shillings that he received and, just like his colleagues, didn’t conduct any activity and failed to account for the said monies.

They have denied the charges, and their lawyers including Paul Kuteesa and George Muhangi among others, said they had instructions to apply for bail. Howeber, they asked the Court to remand them for a short period of time, such that they can attend trial as they come from home.

The Prosecution led by Rogers Kinobe from IGG’s office informed Court that investigations into this case sanctioned by the IGG Beti Kamya herself are still ongoing. The prosecution also prayed for a criminal summons to be issued against Sseremba, but the magistrate ruled that Sseremba should produce himself in the court on June 16. He also issued a production warrant ordering Prisons to produce Abaho tomorrow before the Chief Magistrate for other cases.

Abaho, the Personal Assistant to the Karamoja Affairs Minister Mary Gorreti Kitutu has been sent back to Luzira Prison just a month after he was granted bail on a file where he is implicated with Minister Kitutu and her brother Michael Naboya Kitutu.

The group is jointly facing trial on charges related to the diversion of more than 14,500 iron sheets also meant for the vulnerable people in Karamoja under the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program.

In December 2021, the Parliament passed a supplementary budget worth 39 billion shillings to support various programs in Karamoja. Of these, 22 billion shillings were meant to purchase goats while 5 billion shillings were for the procurement of 100,000 iron sheets which have also since been diverted.

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