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Court acquits ex-works minister Byandala of all corruption charges

Former Works Minister, Abraham Byandala has been acquited of all charged levied against him in the botched Mukono – Katosi road project in a ruling issues by Anti Corruption Court Judge Lawrence Gidudu (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – The Anti-corruption in Kampala has on August 29 morning in its final verdict acquitted former works minister Eng. Abraham Byandala on all the three counts including corruption, abuse of office and disobeying lawful orders.

Also acquitted are former Uganda National Roads Authority Executive Director Ssebuga Kimeze and Legal Council Marvin Baryaruha on charges of causing financial loss to the roads authority in the controversial procurement of an American firm and payment of Shs24 billion that was meant to up-grade Mukono-Katosi road.

Delivering his verdict, Justice Lawrence Gidudu of the Anti-Corruption Court at Kololo said prosecution evidence was mainly based on surrounding circumstances, letters written and recovered from UNRA and insurance companies, e-mails and personal conduct of each of the accused persons.

The judge said the former works minister had grounds for directing that the contract be signed given the long wait of the said road by area residents, availability of funds, clearance by the Solicitor General and legal advice that due diligence can be taken at any stage of the contract, and therefore could not be held criminally liable.

Court also says there’s is no evidence on record to establish that Byandala was aware of that the securities upon which payment of the 24.7 billion shillings was based were forged and fake.

Eng. Byandala has also been acquitted of disobeying lawful orders from the IGG stopping works on the road because the prosecution never adduced evidence to the contrary of a one Matilda who is said to have “Given the circumstances of this case where the stopage of works on the said road had culminated into riots and the road being politically sensitive, there is no evidence that Byandala was motivated by any fraud motives to act like how he did,” the judge ruled.

The judge has also freed former acting UNRA executive director Eng. Berunado SSMsebugga Kimeze of charges of abuse of office fir signing a contract with Eutaw without establishing that there was a valid performance guarante which allowed the payment of over Shs 24 billion to the detriment of UNRA.

The Judge ruled there was incontrovertible evidence that Eng. Kimeze made all efforts but he “inherited a confused procurement” and wondered why he was even charged in the first place.
Justice Giddudu also cleared former UNRA legal counsel Marvin Baryaruha of any wrong -doing since the advise he offered in signing and drawing the contract between EUTAW and UNRA was solicited by his superiors and there is no way he could establish whether the securities presented were fake .

The judge ruled that legal advise can either be taken or disregarded.
However, Justice Giddudu has found the former Director of Finance at UNRA Mr. Joe Ssemugooma guilty of abuse of office by approving payment of Shs24.7 billion to EUTAW before verifying securities.
Mr Ssemugooma awaits sentencing.

Eng. Byandala was jointly charged with businessman Apolo Senkeeto alias Mark Kalyesubula who was the country representative of Eutaw Construction Company, which is accused of fleecing Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) of Shs24.7 billion in the collapsed Katosi road contract.

Other suspects include former Acting Executive Director of the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) Eng Berunado Ssebugga Kimeze the former UNRA director of finance and administration, Mr Joe Ssemugooma, Mr Wilberforce Senjako (former regional accountant) and Mr Isaac Mugote (former staff of Housing Finance Bank).

Prosecution had submitted that Eng Byandala abused his office while holding the Works ministry by a November 14, 2013 letter, when he directed the immediate signing of the contract between UNRA and Eutaw yet the company lacked capacity to carry out the road works.

The IGG also accused the ex-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 IGG also said that Eng. Kimeze abused his office when he signed a contract with Eutaw without establishing that there was a valid performance guarantee and issued a payment guarantee which allowed the payment of over Shs24 billion to the detriment of UNRA’s interests.

Eng Kimeze was separately and jointly charged with Mr Semugooma over causing financial loss to the government by approving payment of the Shs24 billion to Eutaw despite glaring defects in the due-diligence report.
Justice Giddudu is still delivering his judgement.

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