The two have been sentenced to two years in prison

Two Former finance ministry officials jailed over bribes

Two former senior officials at the Ministry of Finance who were arrested for soliciting a bribe from an investor about three years ago have been sentenced to two years in prison.

The Anti-Corruption Court at Kololo also banned the two officers who were interdicted in 2017, from holding any public office for 10 years.

Presiding Judge Lawrence Gidudu convicted former principal finance officer, John Ogol Charles Ogol and Geoffrey Turyamuhika alias Tumwine (senior economist) for receiving and accepting a gratification of $50,000 from Hassan Sserunjogi on March 27 2017.

According to evidence in court, the convicted persons received the money in exchange for expediting documentation for financing the construction of a power substation and transmission line at Sukuru Phosphate project in Tororo.

In addition to the jail punishment, Justice Gidudu ordered Ogol and Turyamuhika to pay a fine of Shs4.8m each.

“I am inclined to impose a sentence that would communicate the message that corruption if proven in this court would attract punishment. At the same time, the sentence would not be such as to keep away the convicts from supporting their families for too long considering that what had received as a bribe was seized and exhibited in court,” Justice Gidudu ordered.

Justice Gidudu reasoned that the court would not impose a punishment sentence that is laughable to encourage persons to commit the same crime hoping that they would walk in and out even after being convicted without being scratched as a constant reminder that corruption is bad.

The court ordered for the return of the money exhibited by State House Comptroller, Lucy Nakyobe who had issued the money to Sserunjogi while the trap was being laid.

Justice Gidudu directed the registrar of the court to refund the Shs8m which each of the convicts had deposited as bail money as well as their mobile phones.

Ogol and Turyamuhika were technical officers at the ministry responsible for handling issues concerning investors.

Speedy investment

Court heard that an investor trading as Guangzhou Dongsongh Energy Group Uganda Limited wanted to establish a factory at Sukulu in Tororo District to manufacture phosphates and other products.

The investor needed power to run the factory complex but government did not have ready money to build a power substation.

According to the indictment, the investor was willing to finance the power project if the government could guarantee to refund its money.

Justice Gidudu reasoned that the challenge seems to have come when the investor wanted to move faster because of the pressure he had from  bankers who had advanced loans that were not utilizing yet  subject to paying interest.

“The convicts saw an opportunity to make quick buck and demanded to be paid a bribe upfront. When a deposit of $50,000 was paid, they shared it out,” he said.

However, Justice Gidudu acquitted the convicts on the charge of corruption in connection with soliciting for a gratification of $300,000 from Sserunjogi.

“The prosecution did not address me on the irregularity in their final submissions. It is my conclusion that the prosecution did not prove the charges against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt,” ruled Justice Gidudu citing inconsistencies in the material presented and the dates provided by witnesses.

The court observed that there were exchanges between Turyamuhika and Sserunjogi which culminated into demands and receipt of bribe money.

Justice Gidudu said that he relied on a 25 minute audio recording between Sserunjogi and the two convicts where a discussion was premised on sharing the money and promises that the investor will have a priority call on the National budget.

On the defence denial against the money arguing that it was thrown to them, the court ruled: “If the money was forced onto a person cannot be said to have received it.”

By David Sseguya