Pension thieves in court for bail ruling

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By JULIET KIGONGO

KAMPALA. The Anti-Corruption Court judge will at 2:00pm decide whether to grant bail to the three convicted former ministry of Public Service officials pending hearing of their case in connection to forgery of a judicial document in order to siphon over Shs15.4 billion pension cash.
The convicts are Christopher Obey, former principal accountant in the Pensions Department and Stephen Kiwanuka Kunsa, former Director of Research and Development and Jimmy Lwamafa, the former permanent secretary of the same ministry.

The three were last week granted bail in Court of Appeal by Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma pending the hearing of their appeal against their conviction and sentence. However, they were sent back to Luzira pruison over the said Shs15.4 billion pension cash.
The presiding Judge Margret Tibulya set today (Friday) as the day when she would release the convicts on bail or send them back to jail, after hearing both the prosecution and defence’s submissions.

Through their lawyers led by Mr John Isabirye and Mr Evans Ochieng, the convicts re-applied for bail.
In their bail application, the convicts state that they are of advanced age, gravely ill and that since their co-accused in the pending case, City lawyer Bob Kasango was granted bail, they too deserve equal treatment before the law.

Particulars of the new charges state that in December 2011 at the Ministry of Public Service headquarters in Kampala, Lwamafa, Obey and Kunsa while employed as permanent secretary, principal accountant in charge of pension and commissioner for compensation department, respectively, diverted Shs2 billion of government for the benefit of Hall and Partners purporting it to be payment for costs and legal fees in a High Court case of 1998.
The prosecution further contends that in January 2012 they arbitrarily diverted another Shs3 billion to Hall and Partners. In February 2012, a similar amount was reportedly diverted to the same law company as purported payment for costs of a 1998 court case.

According to the charge sheet, in March 2012, the three officials also diverted another Shs3 billion in respect of the same case and in June 2012 more than Shs1.4 billion was also paid out fraudulently.
The State further states between July and August 2012, the trio diverted another Shs3 billion to the same Hall and Partners as legal costs but the money was allegedly stolen by Mr Kasango. The prosecution states that the funds were meant for payment of pension and gratuity.

The prosecution also holds that in June 2012, Mr Kasango forged a court order against government dated June 22, 2012 directing the Attorney General to make a further payment of more than Shs3.9 billion as costs in the High Court case of 1998. The prosecution states that Mr Kasango forged the court order purporting that it had been issued by the Deputy Registrar of the High Court Civil Division.

The State alleges that Mr Kasango forged a certificate of costs dated June 20, 2012 asking government to pay more than Shs7.8 billion.
The prosecution avers that Mr Kasango, Mr Mutegeya and others still at large conspired to forge the orders of costs against the government.

The State also indicted Mr Lwamafa, Mr Obey, Mr Kunsa, Mr Kasango and others still at large for allegedly conspiring to defraud government of more than Shs15.4 billion which was irregularly paid to Hall and Partners as legal costs in a case.
The fresh trial comes after Lwamafa, Obey and Kunsa testified in their defence against the charges of irregular budgeting of Shs88.2 billion as civil servants’ contributions to National Social Security Fund well knowing that government workers do not contribute to NSSF.

However prosecution protested their release on bail, on grounds that they are likely to flee since 14 witnesses have already testified and they now know the evidence against them.
“If court is to grant the convicts bail, they should first deposit a security of Shs3 billion each. This is a case of public interest involving colossal sums of money for former public servants who also want justice to prevail in this matter,” Ms Josephine Namatovu the state prosecutor said.

Monitor.co.ug

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