The director of public prosecutions (DPP), Jane Frances Abodo, is set to prosecute several ministers and individuals implicated in the diversion of iron sheets intended for the impoverished communities in the northeastern Karamoja sub-region.
Among those expected to appear before court this week is Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, who was recently interrogated by the police CID regarding the corrugated iron sheets.
The interrogations reportedly lasted for over an hour, and following the investigation, Nabbanja went to Kakumiro in western Uganda to rally her supporters in preparation for potential prosecution this week. During this period, the prime minister was also absent from parliament as budget appropriations for the upcoming financial year were passed.
Sources reveal that last week, eight case files were submitted to the DPP for review, with independent prosecutors assigned to examine the documents. The Observer reached out to Nabbanja for comment but received no response.
Irene Nakimbugwe, the deputy public relations officer at the Office of the DPP, confirmed that they had received files from the police CID and highlighted the complexity of the case. Some suspects claim to have received the iron sheets through verbal communication, while others allege that unknown individuals delivered them to their homes.
Additionally, some individuals reportedly obtained the materials through their personal assistants. Initially, two case files were prepared for suspects to enter their pleas, including those of minister of state for Finance, Planning and Economic Development Amos Lugoloobi, and state minister for Karamoja Agnes Nandutu. The DPP is currently handling a total of 40 files.
Nakimbugwe stated that the DPP returned to the country last Friday after being away, and her final say or opinion is crucial before proceeding with the prosecution. The case files have been reviewed by various individuals, and more charges are expected to be filed this week.
However, Nakimbugwe declined to disclose the identities of the individuals involved, emphasizing the need to control the flow of information and conduct investigations privately to prevent suspects from disputing findings or evidence in the public domain.
Interviewed for this story, Kira Municipality MP, Ssemujju Nganda, said the decision to prosecute individuals involved in the case is determined by President Yoweri Museveni rather than the director of public prosecutions (DPP).
Nganda referred to a letter from President Museveni to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, where the president clarified different levels of culpability, categorizing individuals who took the iron sheets unconsciously and those who took them consciously.
Nganda pointed out that President Museveni mentioned taking a political decision for both categories, which did not surprise him.
“If you read Museveni’s letter to Nabbanja, Museveni sought to clarify the levels of culpability by saying that there are those who took the mabaati unconsciously; and those who took them consciously; for both categories, he said he was going to take a political decision and I am not surprised,” he said, adding, “Nabbanja, [former Speaker of parliament] Kadaga, Nakadama know very well that, that release [of iron sheets] was for Karamoja. That group should have been charged at once. The finance which released the money and knows what it was meant for should also be charged. The only people you can investigate are non-residents of those two offices,” he said.
The MP argued that while the speaker, vice president, and others may claim they took the iron sheets unconsciously, individuals in the ministry of Finance and the Office of the Prime Minister should be prosecuted. Nganda emphasized that Nabbanja, as the head of the Prime Minister’s office overseeing the Karamoja sub-region, should be aware of the purpose of the specific iron sheets allocated to Karamoja.
He also highlighted the knowledge of other officials, including Kadaga and Nakadama, regarding the allocation. In January 2023, minister of Karamoja Affairs Dr Mary Goretti Kitutu, who also serves as the Woman MP for Manafwa, directed the release of over 12,200 pre-painted iron sheets labeled “Office of the Prime Minister” to various ministers and legislators.
The beneficiaries included Vice President Jessica Alupo, speaker Anita Among, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, minister Judith Nabakooba, minister Rose Lilly Akello, state minister Moriku Kaducu, former speaker Rebecca Kadaga, state minister Jacob Markson Oboth, Third Deputy Prime Minister Rukia Nakadama, Finance minister Matia Kasaija, and others.
The Observer reported that Nabakooba, Nandutu, Kasaija and Among returned their allocated shares to the Office of the Prime Minister stores in Namanve.
While the DPP’s office is handling the prosecution, Ssemujju Nganda’s comments shed light on the perceived involvement of President Museveni in determining the course of action.