The charges stemmed from his failure to perform his duties when a bogus company; Ammam Industrial Tools and Equipment Limited (AITEL) was contracted to purchase 70, 000 bicycles from India. The bicycles were meant to be used by LC1 and parish chairpersons for government activities ahead of the 2011 general elections.
The Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court has acquitted
Robert Kakiiza, the former Principal Civil Engineer in the Ministry of Works
and Transport. He was facing charges of abuse of office and criminal negligence.
The charges stemmed from his failure to perform his duties when a bogus company; Ammam Industrial Tools and Equipment Limited (AITEL) was contracted to purchase
70, 000 bicycles from India.
The bicycles were meant to be used by LC1 and parish chairpersons for government activities ahead of the 2011 general elections.
It later emerged that the company, which was also endorsed by the Ministry of works Evaluation committee, was a sham having been formed within five days of putting up an advert seeking bidders to supply bicycles. As a result, the government lost over USD 1.7 million (6.3 billion Shillings) to the government in a raw deal that saw no single bicycle delivered into the country.
But during the trial, Kakiiza through his lawyers led
by Evans Ochieng said that any losses incurred were caused
by other players in the procurement process when they altered the terms of the
contract to pay money before delivery of goods. Court records indicate that
the contract payment was that the said amounts of money be paid in a lump sum upon
delivery. But the Contracts Committee later changed the terms of payment and deposited
40 per cent of the said money before delivery.
Kakiiza said that the acts of
altering the terms of the contract were beyond his scope of the mandate and that
fraud lay elsewhere. He also explained that he did not attend
the Evaluation Committee Meeting because he had joined a team of officials
from the Office of the Prime Minister who were constructing teachers houses
under the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan
in Northern Uganda.
Presiding Judge Lawrence Gidudu set Kakiiza free on grounds that issues of the contract and
performance were beyond his knowledge and scope of duties and that he should have been preferred charges of
conspiracy to defraud but the same was never brought against him. He said that the failure by an official to attend a single committee meeting was not enough to impose criminal
negligence charge against him, especially since he was a civil and not a mechanical engineer.
He added that given his expertise, where
he was sourced to provide technical aspects of bicycles such as quantity, steel,
size and their capacity to handle the road, the Prosecution would have faulted
him if the defective bicycles had been supplied.
The Judge has also noted that whoever changed the term of the contract
payment from the full amount of payment upon delivery to paying 40 per cent upfront
was not part of this case and there was no proof that the decision was made by Kakiiza.
He also reasoned that the Investigating Officer and
Prosecution Witness Umar Mutuya said that there were no minutes of
the Evaluation Committee. Besides this, the court heard that from the beginning, Kakiiza
was never treated as an accused person. This is because Mutuya said that he lied
to the court when he testified that Kakiiza skipped bond when actually he has never
been given any police bond.
Lawyer Evans Ochieng welcomed the decision.
//Cue in; We are happy…
Cue out…cleared him finally.”//
About seven years ago,
four people formerly employed in the Ministry of Local Government were
sentenced to serve a punishment ranging from one to 13-years in jail for
their various roles in this bicycle scandal. The sentences were earlier given by the
then Anti-Corruption Court Judge Catherine Bamugemereire were later upheld by
the Court of Appeal while others quashed.
They include Sam Emorut
Erongot, the former Commissioner in charge of Policy and Planning, John Muhanguzi Kashaka, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Henry Bamutura, the former Principal Accountant and Adam Aluma. The other accused person Robert Mwebaze died
during the course of the trial and Timothy Musherure the Consultant also
passed on moments after he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.