The Anti-corruption Unit of State House has arrested two more technocrats of Mbarara municipality including the town clerk over corruption allegations, only a week after six top district officials were apprehended in connection with fraud.
The Unit’s visit to Mbarara on Monday, the second in a week, saw the investigating team meet with both the municipality and district leaders separately to get information and clues that will aid the probe into the alleged fraud that has entrenched the district.
The arrested officials are Edward Lwanga, the Mbarara town clerk, Richard Kerere, the Municipality treasurer and James Agaba, the District Commercial Officer who narrowly escaped arrest but was issued criminal summons by the unit officials.
Some other four officials recorded statements with Police but survived the arrest. These include; Carol Warugaba (Physical Planner), Moses Mwesigwa (Senior Internal Officer), Sebastian Baryaija (Acting Municipality Engineer) and Edgar Atwiine (Procurement Officer).
According to the Anti-corruption Unit’s legal officer, Israel Ochwo, the municipality officials were queried on failure to account for Shs 900m for capacity building under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) project.
The said funds, according to Ochwo, were diverted by the suspects, to buying furniture, a procurement the funds were not intended for.
USMID is a government program implemented by the Ministry of Lands, housing and Urban Development. The World Bank gave Uganda a loan of USD 150m (approximately Shs 375bn) to upgrade infrastructure in fourteen municipalities across Uganda.
They are also accused of mismanaging Shs 272m collected from traders at Mbarara shopping market. Each of the 200 traders paid Shs 90m to the District Commercial Officer for renovation of the market which was executed in a shoddy manner.
The Unit is also investigating the officials for failing to account for revenue generated from the Mbarara taxi park as well as Shs 360m which was appropriated for the construction of Koranorya road.
“We were making a follow up on the previous case of Koranorya road which we had not concluded last week. And we have a number of new allegations which have been raised,” Ochwo told reporters on Monday.
“We have land related issues like the cemetery land in Kakiika, Kenkombe land, Kakyera land, land opposite Stanbic bank where a Shs 150m water fountain project was not implemented, and issues related to street lighting under USMID which was not executed properly,” he said.
He said that the arrested officials did not provide sufficient information concerning thr allegations.
“We have a number of gaps which have not been explained, we still need clarity from the commercial officer and we have some clarity to be provided by the human resource officer on the capacity building components under USMID. We also need more clarity on management of road funds (Shs 90m)”.
Initially, when the team first visited the district, a number of officials were arrested and charged in court over land grabbing.
The Mbarara Deputy RDC, Emmy Kateera Turyabagyenyi said that the crackdown by the Lt Col Edith Nakalema-led Unit on fraudulent civil servants in Mbarara is sending signals to the rest of the country.
He asked the privileged government officials to serve the public diligently instead of serving their own selfish interests.
“As I talk now our chief administrative officer is now in custody and has been charged together with others. There are no more shortcuts,” he said.
He however warned the unit not to be corrupt like many agencies which were formed by government to fight corruption.
“NRM government came into power with so many agencies to fight corruption like the Auditor General, IGG, CID but corruption has persisted. We hope your Unit will also not be compromised,” said Turyabagyenyi.
He encouraged the Unit officials to always ground enough evidence pinning the suspects to avoid government losing cases in courts something that will erode public trust in the Unit.
“And in the same breath don’t victimize in order to satisfy your appointing authority, let there be enough evidence to pin persons. Let’s not go by populists that we must be seen that some people have been arrested, that you are working. We wouldn’t expect to lose cases in court and you know the repercussions” he added.
He expressed fear that Mbarara could lose out on the city status acquisition due to the corrupt tendencies that have riddled the district.