Kampala, Uganda: The Anti-Corruption Court has remanded the Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono to Luzira Prison for loss of public property, corruption, and conspiracy to defraud the government.
Kitutu was arraigned before the Court presided over by Chief Magistrate Joan Achiro on Thursday. Kitutu was remanded alongside her brother, Michael Naboya Kitutu.
According to the charge sheet seen by Uganda Radio Network, Kitutu allegedly caused a loss of public property between June 2022 and January 2023 by diverting 14,500 pre-painted iron sheets intended for the Karamoja Community Empowerment Program to her own benefit and that of third parties.
It is also alleged that at the same time, her co-accused Naboya a Peasant farmer and a resident of Bukawekha Sub County Namisindwa District received 100 iron sheets yet they were stolen property.
The two are implicated alongside Joshua Abaho, the Senior Assistant Secretary Ministry of Karamoja Affairs Office of the Prime Minister who did not appear in court. Court has issued a criminal summons against Abaho.
However, they denied the charges.
Her lawyers Jude Byamukama and Michael Wamasebu applied for bail on grounds that Kitutu is a Ugandan citizen aged 61 and therefore of advanced age and that she is a very prominent person having served in many respectful offices as a State Minister and now a Cabinet Minister.
The court also heard that Kitutu is a very decorated scientist and academician with a fixed place of abode in Bunga Makindye Division, married to Michael Kitutu an Accountant with whom they have been married since June 4th, 1988, and a mother of seven children and also a grandmother of seven.
According to Wamasebu, Kitutu also owns property within court jurisdiction including two pieces of land in form of a private mile in Wakiso District and he submitted two copies of the land titles before the Court.
Court also heard that Kitutu has a medical condition called hypertensive heart disease with left ventricle stiffness (HHDD) which was diagnosed on March 15th, 2023 by Dr. Charles Sendikadiwa of Mulago National Referral Hospital.
The court was also told that in the two days, Kitutu has spent in custody, her condition has worsened yet it is a threatening heart condition especially when she is under stress.
“Your Honor, one of our colleagues Bob Kasango had the same condition, he applied for bail, it was denied and he died in Luzira Prison”, Wamasebu told Court.
Wamasebu presented to the court Kitutu’s sureties including her husband Michael George Kitutu a self-employed man with an interest in real estate, Former MP Simon Mulongo who is currently a Diplomat and Special Envoy to the African Union, Seth Wambede Mbale City Northern Division Member of Parliament and Dr. Joel Wandabwa the Plastic Surgeon attached to Kiruddu Hospital.
However, Assistant DPP Namatovu objected to the bail application relying on an affidavit sworn by Detective Muhammad Soweti one of the Investigating Officers.
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Namatovu has noted that inquiries are still ongoing and therefore she will interfere with prosecution witnesses once released because she already directly did this by stopping and obstructing her mother Contilda Kitutu from recording a statement yet some of the exhibits, in this case, were recovered from her house.
According to Namatovu, the sureties presented do not meet the requirements for the release on bail in a case of such scale because the nature of accusations against Kitutu reflects the loss of public property which is a serious offense that attracts a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment once found guilty.
However, Achiro remanded the two until April 12, because it was late and the state wanted more time to verify the documents presented by sureties and the authenticity of the two land titles presented by the Minister.
Last month, the Karamoja Parliamentary group formally wrote to the Clerk of Parliament, Adolf Mwesige, notifying him of their intent to file a notice of motion for the censure of Minister Kitutu. President Museveni also directed CID and the State House Anti-corruption Unit to jointly carry out investigations into the scandal, with the suspects recording statements at CID before the DPP took over the charges.
In December 2021, Parliament passed a supplementary budget worth 39 billion shillings to support various programs in Karamoja, including the purchase of 100,000 iron sheets, which are alleged to have been diverted. Last month, CID announced that they were investigating 22 Ministers, 31 MPs, and 13 Chief Administrative Officers.”
Director of Public Prosecutions Jane Frances Abodo confirmed she had sanctioned charges of corruption and conspiracy to commit a felony against Kitutu and directed the police, who had been holding the Minister in custody for the last two days, to produce her in court.