The Inspector General of Government (IGG), Beti Kamya Turomwe, has summoned embattled Karamoja Affairs Minister, Mary Gorreti Kitutu, over the controversial iron sheet saga. URN has seen a letter written by Kamya on December 6th, 2023, ordering Kitutu to appear before her office on Thursday, January 11th, 2024.
The letter says the minister is required to give information about the ongoing inquiry. However, there is information that there are 11,006 iron sheets.
“And also bring with you and to produce at that time any documents or information in respect to the management of supplementary funds that were released to the Office of the Prime Minister to support peace-building activities in Karamoja Sub-Region in FY 2021/2022,” adds Kamya in her summons.
The letter referencing inquiry HQT/CO/186/2023 was received by the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs on January 4, 2024.
URN was not able to reach Dr. Mary Gorreti Kitutu for a comment about the latest development in the case that has lagged on since April 2023.
Jude Byamukama, Minister Kitutu’s lawyer, has, however, protested the latest summons by the IGG, saying it is an attempt by Kamya and her team to resurrect investigations when his client is supposed to undergo trial.
“My view is that this is a shocking abuse of due process rights. The CID, the Statehouse Anti-Corruption Unit, the DPP, and even Parliament thoroughly investigated all matters relating to the Supplementary Budget. The attempt to resurrect that investigation fully confirms what we have always known: that Hon. Kitutu is undergoing a political witch hunt,” said Byamukama.
Byamukama wondered under what legal regime his client, who is under trial, is being required to submit to a new investigation over matters forming the pending criminal trial.
“You will recall that she was charged with loss of public property, yet all recipients refunded the iron sheets. The minister is not an accounting officer; why would she be expected to hold documents?” Byamukama asked.
At the end of November 2023, Kitutu lost a bid to block her trial over the iron sheet scandal. She had asked the Anti-Corruption Court to stop her trial. During the investigation into the theft of 9000 iron sheets intended for Karamoja Community Empowerment, she claimed that security personnel and Uganda Police Force detectives had tortured her.
Dr. Kitutu was charged in August 2023, jointly with her brother, Naboya Kitutu Michael, and a senior assistant secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, Abaho Joshua, with the offences of loss of public property and conspiracy to defraud. They denied the charges stemming from accusations that they diverted iron sheets meant for Karamoja. Two other ministers, Amos Lugolobi and Agnes Nandutu, were arrested and remanded to Luzira prison over the iron sheet scandal. Kitutu and the co-accused are expected in court this month.
However, URN has seen a letter she wrote to the President on December 20, 2023, updating him on the distribution of iron sheets under her ministry. In the opening paragraph of the letter, she, together with her colleagues Agnes Nandutu and Amos Lugolobi, expressed gratitude to the President for “keeping us in cabinet despite the intensive negative publicity that has been awash in the media for five months since February this year. We thank you for the fatherly decision. May God bless you more,” said Kitutu before she went on. The Attorney General is said to have advised that the iron sheet still being kept at the OPM should be distributed.
The Acting Permanent Secretary, Rose Alenga, had declared that only 86,941 prepainted iron sheets were in the stores. And there were also 10,614 corrugated plain iron sheets, totaling 97,555, for distribution to Karamoja.
The Prime Minister, Robina Nabanja, together with various stakeholders in Karamoja, like RDCs and the 3rd Division Commander of the UPDF, among others, reportedly met on October 31st and agreed on the formula for the distribution of the iron sheets. Each beneficiary was to get 26 iron sheets.
Four hundred and fifteen beneficiaries, mainly from Napak, had missed the iron sheets. She went on to tell the president that ten thousand, seven hundred, and ninety iron sheets were required. That, she said, would cost one billion, four hundred and sixteen million, and seven hundred and forty thousand shillings.
Missing iron sheets
Then Kitutu appeared to report to the President about what appeared to be a fresh scandal of iron sheets that were missing from the Office of the Prime Minister.
“Your Excellency, I have directed the new Permanent Secretary to follow up on how a shortfall of 11,006 iron sheets came out of the OPM stores because this is not part of the 14,500 sheets that were alleged to have been stolen by the Ministers,” reads part of the letter to the President but not copies to the Prime Minister.
URN could not confirm from its sources at the IGG and OPM whether that could be the reason why the IGG was summoning Kitutu as a witness. Kitutu and colleagues apologise to Museveni. In the concluding paragraphs of the six-page letter, Kitutu goes on to apologise on behalf of Agnes Nandutu and Amos Lugolobi.
“Finally, Your Excellency, we are your daughters and sons in a family. Children can make mistakes, but many times parents have some window of pardon and forgiveness. As I had mentioned earlier, together with my colleagues who are facing court, we highly appreciate your leniency for having kept us in cabinet,” said the letter.
Kitutu goes on to tell the president how it has been difficult for her, and the colleagues have tried to secure a meeting with him, but it has not been forthcoming.
“On behalf of my colleagues, with whom we are all in agreement, I wish to give our apology to you as the head of state for whatever mistakes were made in the iron sheet saga,” she said. “Your excellency, we have learned a lesson as individuals, and we ask for pardon from you.” She further informed the president how costly it has been for them to appear before the courts.
“And the most depressing thing that we have faced as ministers is when the technical officers and the accounting officer who were part of the problem and caused more losses of 11,006 iron sheets are paraded as witnesses by the DPP against us.”
Kitutu finally asked the President to direct the DPP’s office to drop the charges against the accused persons and allow the matter to be solved politically through discussion.
“We sincerely pledge to be patriots and always support the NRM agenda of fighting corruption.”