KAMPALA – The chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Ms Sylvia Muwebwa Ntambi, and nine other officials have been charged with defrauding government of millions of shillings.
Ms Muwebwa was charged in absentia in the Anti-Corruption Court on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. She was represented by her lawyers. Her lawyers pledged to present her before court on September 30 to take plea.
She is jointly charged with Mr Mujuni Mpitsi, the Secretary to the Commission; Olwor Sunday Nicholas, the Undersecretary; Moses Mugabe, a Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and Byangire Harriet, a Senior Accountant. Others are: Edith Kamahoro, a Senior Personal Secretary; Kwesiga Ronnie, an Accounts Assistant; Jjemba Evans, the Principle Compliance Officer; Kwihangana Manasseh, a Senior Compliance Officer and Sarah Nassanga an Office Attendant.
The full details of the charge sheet were yet to be unveiled by press time.
But Lt. Col. Edith Nakalema, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit of State House, is quoted by CEO Magazine as confirming the charges.
“Yes, the Chairperson Equal Opportunities Commission has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the government. Details about the case can be found in the charge sheet and our PRO can share it,” CEO Magazine quotes Lt Col Nakalema as saying.
The revelation is a setback in the fight against corruption given that the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is a government agency that is mandated to eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual in state institutions.
In 2019, PML Daily reported that Ms Muwebwa was accused of superintending over unethical practices that had seen staff polarized along tribal lines, which has created a toxic working environment.
The allegations were contained in a petition by a whistleblower to President Museveni detailing cases of unfair staff dismissal, irregular interdiction, resignations and refusal to renew staff contracts amid allegations of tribalism.
“There is a clear divide between the Westerners and the Baganda. The Westerners are blacklisted, side-lined and fought up to exit. “Some officers who were given the jobs without interviews are indeed very difficult to work with and/or supervise because they belong to the “royal family” of the Commission,” the report reads in part.
It is alleged that Ms Ntambi has been recruiting her relatives and tribe mates without following the due procedures.
It is also alleged that she has been embezzling the Commission’s funds through inflated and non-existent trips abroad, workshops and seminars. The funds came from the government and donors.
In one instance, the petition indicates that in March, she travelled to New York for the Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). For this meeting, she was paid Shs36.8m for 17 days yet the meeting was for 13 days.
Between April 6 and April 16, she is reported to have received Shs27.2m for 12 days of a benchmarking trip in Sweden and Finland, which according to a whistleblower did not take place.
Ms Ntambi has also been accused of using her powers to direct payment of salary advances to herself. There are longstanding salary advances of Shs37.3million paid to her on March 4, 2016, and another payment of Shs40.3m she received on February 2, 2017.