The Anti-corruption Court will tomorrow (Friday) deliver a ruling in the case in which government is challenging the Constitutional Court’s ruling dismissing charges related to corruption against jailed former principal accountant in Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Godfrey Kazinda.
In 2014, Kazinda ran to the Constitutional Court seeking among other things, to declare that the act by the directorate of public prosecutions to split the cases and sequentially initiating charges of offences founded on the same facts for which he was earlier on convicted contravened the constitution.
The Constitutional Court justices ruled that all the trials he had faced after his first conviction abused laws provided for under the Constitution.
Constitutional Court judges Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Cheborion Burishaki, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Stephen Musota, ruled that the prosecution failed to abide by Article 28(9) of the Constitution and ended up with duplicity of charges which infringed on Kazinda’s right to a fair hearing.
The Attorney General appealed the Constitutional Court’s judgment, saying the decision raises several constitutional and legal issues that warrant serious judicial consideration by the supreme court.
Subsequently, in their February 12 ruling, a panel of seven Justices of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo stayed the execution of the Constitutional Court ruling, pending the hearing and determination of the intended appeal by the prosecution.
Kazinda was sent back to Luzira on a Criminal case 29 of 2016 involving charges of Illicit Wealth amounting to Shs 4.6bn contrary to section 35 (I) (ii) of the Anti-Corruption Act.
The Supreme Court will now pronounce itself on the matter tomorrow, Friday.
How Kazinda landed in trouble
Kazinda was arrested in 2012 after the then Office of Prime Minister Permanent Secretary, Pius Bigirimana, blew the whistle on his suspected fraudulent dealings.
Efforts to push Kazinda from OPM did not bear fruit as the transfer was cancelled by officials in the Ministry of Finance.
Earlier in 2011, Bigirimana had warned in a letter to Kazinda and Finance Ministry, he would not tolerate the Principal Accountant’s ‘illicit work methods.’
When Kazinda failed to produce documentation for a value for money audit, Bigirimana called for a forensic investigation. Kazinda quietly took a sabbatical for 45 days, raising more suspicion.
The Auditor General’s investigation discovered that Kazinda had on December 1, 2011, transferred Shs 14.8bn to a dormant account without Bigirimana’s knowledge. The e-transfer was disguised as ‘salary electronic transfer’ file.
The Audit conducted under pressure from government and donors concluded that the fraud originated from Treasury by Wilber Okello and Tony Yawe in connivance with Bright Atwine from Treasury Services Department.
The acocuntant general’s office transferred this money to the ‘Crisis Management Account’.
The signed transfer was delivered by Amon Takwenda, the authorised treasury agent.
At the time, Bigirimana was quizzed by investigators, MPs and even President Museveni on how he was unable to know that money was being stolen yet he had rights and passwords to authorise payments.
He said the high level e-fraud hatched and incubated by a team of colluding and highly skilled information technology technocrats at the Ministry of Finance and BoU made it impossible to “detect, let alone insulate government” from the heist.
Investigators decided to scrutinise the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) database, during which they established that the responsibility of invoice approval was irregularly assigned to Kazinda by one of the database administrators known as Chris Lubega on February 1, 2011.
Subsequently, a total of Shs 16.2bn was approved by Kazinda and paid to various individuals and organisations without Bigirimana’s knowledge.
The analysis at Bank of Uganda revealed that 74% of payments made were by Kazinda, 10.6% by Bigirimana and 14.9% by other staff in total contravention of existing guidelines.
It was a requirement that before a payment is made by Bank of Uganda, verification of signature should be made against specimen signatures at the bank.
However, a review of payments by auditors revealed that 121 payment instruments totalling to Shs 13bn appeared to have signatures of the Permanent Secretary and Under Secretary differing from the specimen signature at the Bank of Uganda.
All these forged payments were confirmed by Kazinda and honoured by BoU’S deputy banking chief, Milton Opio.
By the time security services moved to arrest Kazinda, he had accumulated a lot wealth.
He is said to have changed designs for his building in Bukoto every six months.
It’s argued that Kazinda would have evaded the long-arm of the law had the OPM scandal not hit the limelight.
Still, observers say his penchant for luxury including riding posh cars, booking five-star accommodation and regular expensive flights to Monaco, France to watch Formula 1 races, landed him in trouble.
For example, Anti-corruption Judge, Margaret Tibulya, found that between 2009 and 2012, Kazinda maintained a standard of living that was not commensurate with his known sources of income. The evidence showed that between 2010 and 2012, Kazinda had rented a suite at Sheraton Hotel, Kampala for over six months.
Kazinda spent Shs 210,364,011 (USD 56,910) on this expense.
Yet, Kazinda had stated in his Asset Declaration Forms that, for the period in issue, he had no other sources of income other than his salary and allowances, which totalled Shs 83,754,655 (USD 22,658).
To disassociate this expense from himself, Kazinda obtained a credit facility at the hotel in the name of an accomplice who denied having occupied the suite.
Also, expert evidence on handwriting showed that the accused had signed the invoices of the bills incurred. He also made part payments in cheques in his own name. Oral evidence from hotel staff also proved that it was the accused who occupied the suite at the time.
A mansion and plots of land in Kampala
In the second count, the court found that between 2010 and 2012, Kazinda was in control and possession of three plots of land in Bukoto, Kampala worth a total value of Shs 3,657,747,500 (USD 989,540), which was disproportionate to his known sources of income. On a part of this land sat the accused’s spectacular mansion.
Interestingly, Kazinda had tried to disassociate himself from these properties by transferring them as a gift to the registered trustees of a local Christian monks’ group.
Three witnesses from the monks’ group testified that their society did not, in fact, own these properties.
Their acquisition was not reflected in their Annual General Meeting reports of the years in question. Neither were they reflected in their inventory of properties.
So, though the accused had purported to have transferred these properties by way of a gift to the monks, evidence showed that he remained in possession and control of these properties. He also retained the land titles. The fact that the accused did not declare these properties in his Asset Declarations led to an inference that he had obtained them illicitly.
In the third count, the court found that between 2010 and 2012, Kazinda was in control and possession of four motor vehicles worth a total value of Shs 769,473,835 (208,145 USD), which was disproportionate to his known sources of income. One of these vehicles was a Mercedes Benz worth a whopping Shs 544,594,287 (USD 147,315).
Strangely, Kazinda registered this luxurious vehicle in the name of a Christian monk who was his family friend. The other three vehicles were also registered in the names of accomplices. However, the court established that Kazinda owned and was in control of the said vehicles.
The court rejected Kazinda’s defence that he could have afforded this lifestyle since he had worked for 18 years in various positions. The court noted that even if his income were aggregated for all those years and even if he had not spent anything in all that time, the assets he was holding would still be hugely disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The accused was sentenced to suffer a total of 15 years’ imprisonment and his illicitly acquired wealth frozen by the IGG.
According to Asset Recovery Expert, Tom Walugembe, the case against Kazinda set an excellent foundation for jurisprudence to be developed on the offence of illicit enrichment in Uganda.
“It is hoped that similar charges will be brought against other public servants in Uganda who have illicitly acquired enormous wealth, thereby deterring others from attempting the same,” said Walugembe.