The State Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amos Lugoloobi has appeared before High Court for his alleged involvement in the diversion of iron sheets meant for the vulnerable people of Karamoja. Lugoloobi appeared before Lady Justice Margaret Tibulya on Tuesday morning who read to him two charges of dealing with suspect property.
The Minister pleaded not guilty to the charges. Earlier on the Court heard that Lugoloobi while at the office of the Prime Minister Stores in Namanve in Mukono District and at different places in Matuga, Wakiso District, and Ntejeru North Constituency in Kayunga District received 700 prepainted iron sheets marked ‘Office of the Prime Minister.
According to the Prosecution, the said iron sheets which were acquired as a result of loss of government property contrary to section 10 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Court were obtained in two phases with one involving 400 iron sheets between July 14th, 2022, and February 2023, and another batch of 300 iron sheets obtained between February 1st, 2023 and March 16th, 2023.
The High Court has appointed three assessors namely Judith Muhairwe, Fred Ssemukwano, and John Martin Ofwono to help advise the court with the trial and were sworn in to commence work. The Prosecutor Josephine Namatovu informed the Court that they were ready for the hearing but had talked to Lugoloobi’s lawyers John Isabirye and Tonny Tumukunde who said they were not ready to proceed.
Namatovu said that they had given Lugoloobi’s lawyers all the documents they intend to rely on to prosecute the Minister but, they said they needed more time to first scrutinize them and see if they have any objections as to whether they should be admitted on the court record. Isabirye and Tumukunde who were in court confirmed to the Judge that they indeed asked for more time.
Justice Margaret Tibulya extended Lugoloobi’s bail and adjourned the case to August 22nd, 2023. The Magistrate’s court committed Lugoloobi to face trial last month following the conclusion of investigations into the charges against him. Court also allowed him to access his passport following his application for the relaxation of his bail terms.
In his application, Lugoloobi argued that he was a frequent traveler since he has to represent Uganda in several meetings that require the formulation of fiscal policies among others. Deputy Registrar Pamela Lamunu Ocaya found Lugoloobi’s arguments to be valid and allowed his request on the grounds that his lawyers have to inform the court whenever he is to travel.
Lugoloobi, who is said to have used the iron sheets to roof a shelter for his goats faces a seven-year jail term or a fine not exceeding 160 currency points (Shillings 3.2 million) or both, upon conviction. He is among the three Ministers facing trial before the Anti-Corruption court over the Karamoja iron sheets scandal.
The others are State Minister for Karamoja Affairs Agness Nandutu and her Senior Minister, Mary Gorreti Kitutu who is jointly charged with her brother Michael Naboya Kitutu on six charges related to causing loss of government property and conspiracy to defraud the government.
Other 17 top politicians including MPs, Ministers, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Vice President who were initially implicated in the same scandal have since had their case files closed by the Director of Public Prosecutions Jane Frances Abodo for lack of sufficient evidence.