Food scam: OPM officials slapped with 24 fresh charges

Accused OPM officials in the dock

Accused OPM officials in the dock

Four senior officials from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) have been slapped with 24 fresh charges relating to flouting procurement process while purchasing COVID-19 relief items. 

The officials who include the permanent secretary Christine Guwatudde Kintu, accountant Joel Wanjala, assistant commissioner for procurement Fred Lutimba and commissioner for disaster management Martin Owor will now face 12 counts related to abuse of office and 12 others on false accounting.

According to the new charge sheet presented by the resident state attorney Janat Kitimbo, the accused persons did acts prejudicial to their employer when they prepared and issued false entries in award letters to several companies to supply COVID-19 relief items such as maize and milk worth more than Shs 32 billion in total disregard of the procurement procedures. 

The companies that were contracted between March 31 and April 8, 2020, include Aponye Uganda Limited which was given Shs 19 billion to supply several kilograms of maize each at Shs 3,000, Mandela Millers Limited which was given Shs 9 billion and Afro Kai Limited which was paid Shs 2 billion. 

The other companies include Mehta Group C/o SCOUL was given Shs 900 million, Operation Wealth Creation which was paid Shs 450 million, Pearl Dairy Farmers Limited with a bill of Shs 525 million, Nmacks Investments Limited Shs 225 million and Global Centre Limited which was given Shs 240 million.

It is also alleged that the accused persons used their offices to defraud government after making false entries of the said award letters to the companies to supply relief items purporting that the monies had been allocated by the OPM contracts committee which was false. The trial will now be transferred to the Anti-Corruption court which has the jurisdiction to try the new offences that have been slapped against the group.  

The four had initially been charged with one count of colluding to commit a fraudulent act during the procurement of COVID-19 relief items by inflating prices of commodities such as beans and maize which caused a loss of Shs 4 billion to the government.

The initial charge sheet stated that the officials quoted Shs 3,900 per kilogram of maize flour as opposed to the market price ranging between Shs 2,500 and Shs 3,000. The officials had also quoted a price of Shs 4,500 for every kilogram of beans as opposed to the market price of Shs 3,000-4,000. 

The accused persons were represented by a lawyers McDusman Kabega, Andrew Mumpenjje, Evans Ochieng and Medard Lubega Sseggona. The legal team asked the state to disclose the evidence they intend to use against their clients as they head to the Anti-Corruption court.  The state noted that all this will be done when proceedings at the Anti-Corruption court commence.
© 2016 Observer Media Ltd