Iron sheets: Court to determine next month whether VP, speaker can be prosecuted
- Written by URN
High court judge Lawrence Gidudu has fixed July 4th as the date to decide on whether individuals implicated in the diversion of iron sheets and other items under their ministries and departments can be legally held accountable.
Last month, lawyer Male Mabirizi petitioned the Anti-Corruption court challenging the arrests, interrogations, detentions, and subsequent prosecutions of vice president, speaker, ministers, members of parliament, and Local Government leaders.
Mabirizi sought to nullify the investigations, arrests, detentions, and prosecutions by the police, director of public prosecutions, or any other state agencies. In a written memo by the minister in charge of Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu to the accounting officer, Kitutu sought the release of 12,200 pieces of iron sheets for the vulnerable groups in the Karamoja region under the Affirmative Action Programme.
It is alleged that the iron sheets were released but misappropriated and ended up in the hands of Kitutu, her state minister Agnes Nandutu, state minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amos Lugoloobi, and others who are still at large.
Mabirizi argued that under the law, the vice president, ministers, speakers, and Local Government leaders cannot be answerable on matters regarding accountability stemming from their ministries and departments which they head, because they make policies and not matters to do with accounting.
He added that if such continues, the government is most likely to have senior six-leavers politicians since they are lay people going to prison when the government is employing technical people who should be held accountable but not political heads.
Mabirizi said the law was made clear not to victimize the political class and that his biggest fear and the accounting officers should be the ones to face arrest.
According to Mabirizi, the constitution provides for several ways of punishing such politicians by either way terminating their appointments, recalling them from their offices, and asking them to return such property failure of which should lead to civil proceedings against them but not criminal proceedings.
He added that according to the law, if you have evidence against them, you gather and make it in one file but you don't go on scattering multiple files in different courts all arising from one memo. He said this is because the accused persons will suffer from double jeopardy because they can't hire lawyers to represent them at once which is costly as well as if they all have one defense witness, going to all different cases before different judicial officers becomes expensive.
Mabirizi said that the actions by the DPP and the attorney general who are the only respondents in this case have caused him psychological anguish and court should nullify the piecemeal investigations arrests detentions and subsequent prosecutions of the said politicians in this iron sheets scandal and go ahead with and award him Shs 80 million in compensation for the damages caused to him.
Principal state attorney Peter Masaba asked the court to dismiss Mabirizi’s application with costs saying it lacks merit and that he doesn't have the locus to file it on behalf of the accused persons.
According to Masaba, the arrests, interrogations, and prosecution do not contravene the constitution or any legislation because the politicians are being charged as individuals but not because of their offices.
Court heard that the DPP and police are doing their statutory work and the prosecutions are being guided by evidence that is sufficient enough to stand trial and incriminate those implicated in the diversion of the iron sheets.
According to Masaba, the investigations and prosecutions are not piecemeal in nature but in a systematic way, and therefore, Mabirizi's application has no cause for action. Gidudu’s ruling will have a great bearing on 33 MPs, 21 ministers, and 13 chief administrative officers whom the CID of police said it was investigating in this scandal.
Last month, President Museveni wrote to premier Nabbanja who is also a suspect in this case saying those who were involved in the iron sheets scandal made a political mistake and he also promised to make political action.
Museveni also directed those who received the iron sheets to return them and as such other suspects like speaker Anita Among have since heed to the President's advice.
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