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KATOSI ROAD SCANDAL: Assessors ask court to acquit suspects

Assessors have advised the Anti-Corruption court to acquit ex-Works Minister Abraham Byandala and seven others on charges of embezzling Shs24bn meant to up-grade the Mukono–Kyetume–Katosi–Nyenga Road (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Stanley Kurongo and Okech Vincent Ferrer the assessors in the Mukono-Katosi fraud case against Former Works Minister Abraham Byandala and seven others, have advised Anticorruption court to acquit them on charges of embezzling Shs24billion that was meant to up-grade the said road.

The two assessors told Justice Lawrence Gidudu that they have not found sufficient evidence adduced by the IGG warranting conviction of any of the accused persons.

Assessors are members of the public with no legal knowledge who follow the trial and give their opinion on whether to acquit or convict an accused person. However their opinion does not bind the trial judge from deliberating and writing his/her verdict.

Eng. Byandala who has been on trial since last year is accused of having abused his office while holding the Works ministry docket by a November 14, 2013 letter, when he directed the immediate signing of the contract between UNRA and EUTAW, an American construction firm that was contracted to upgrade the Katosi Road and yet the company lacked capacity to perform.

Other accused are; Mr Berunado Kimeze, 54, the former acting executive director of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), Joe Ssemugooma, 54, the former acting director finance and administration at UNRA, Mr Apollo Senkeeto, alias Mark Kalyesubula, 45, a businessman and Isaac Mugote, former banker with Housing Finance Bank Ltd.

The IGG further accuses the minister, who was dropped from holding the Works docket in March 2015, for having, in an August 27, 2014 letter, abused his office by ordering for the continuation of the works on the Mukono-Katosi road by Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO).

The ombudsman added that in so doing, the minister formalised the illegal sub-contract of the works with CICO by ensuring that an agreement is signed between EUTAW and CICO, thereby authorising UNRA to pay CICO directly well knowing that EUTAW had breached its contract with UNRA and yet the IGG had already halted the same process.

The Minister is also accused of disobeying lawful orders by the Inspector General of Government Irene Mulyagonja dated 17th/July/2014, directing him to halt transaction on the said works, after she discovered that the company that had won the bid, and the one that was executing the works were totally different.

Justice Gidudu has set August 29 when he will give his final verdict in the case.

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