June 27, 2013

Court Blocks PS Lukwago’s Arrest

Dr Asuman Lukwago, the Health  Ministry's Permanent Secretary
Dr Asuman Lukwago, the Health Ministry’s Permanent Secretary

The Constitutional Court last evening evening temporarily stopped the trial of Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr Asuman Lukwago before the Anti Corruption Court until such a time when the grievances he has raised are tackled.

The interim order was issued by a single judge, Steven Kavuma in the presence of his lawyers, Jotham Mugarura and Dr James Akampumuza.

O June 7, Dr Lukwago petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking to block proceedings before the Anti Corruption Court, saying they are unconstitutional.

Dr Lukwago (47) was among others wanted by the Anti Corruption Court for conspiring with 3 others and attempted to steal over Shs1 billion from the ministry’s Global Fund project.

With the issuing of this interim order, it means that PS Lukwago is now a free man until the Constitutional Court rules otherwise.

Dr Lukwago had been jointly charged with Mr Ponziano Nyeko, 46, an Assistant Commissioner in the Health Ministry, Mr Alex Gumisiriza, 32, Finance Manager, Global Fund in the Health ministry and Mr Sabiiti Tibaijuka, 52, former police officer.

All his co-accused had appeared before the Anti Corruption Court and pleaded not guilty to all the charges. But Dr Lukwago had on three occasions snubbed court citing ‘ill health’ though the state had insisted that this was a delaying tactic to avoid the ‘long hand of justice’.

According to the charge sheet at the Anti Corruption Court, Dr Lukwago was facing a separately charge of neglecting his official accounting duties when he failed to ensure the proper expenditure of the ministry’s funds according to the Public and Accountability Act 2003.

The prosecution had alleged that he failed to ensure the propriety of the expenditure of the MOH by signing Security Paper No. 186271 thereby authorizing Bank of Uganda to credit a fraudulent bank account in the names of National Medical Stores (NMS).

In his complaint before the Constitutional Court that led to this evening’s issuing of the interim order, Dr Lukwago had accused the DPP of initiating criminal proceedings against him for having performed his duties as accounting officer and yet he did not accord him a hearing, a move he says is an abuse of a legal process.

Further in his complaint before the court, Dr Lukwago had criticized the DPP for preferring against him unknown offenses, a move he said amounted to abuse of criminal procedure and that it’s unconstitutional.

The issuing of the interim order comes at the time when the Anti Corruption Court had for the second time in about a period of a month, issued an arrest warrant against him for refusing to come to court to plead to the charges.

He was expected in court on July 2 to take plea but now with this interim order, everything is on hold.

In his affidavit to support his complaint, Dr Lukwago claims he is the one who instead stopped the fraud at the National Medical Stores and yet the actual person behind this fraud has been treated in a ‘protectionist’ and ‘privileged’ manner.

The Constitutional Court is yet to a date to hear his main petition that will determine his grievances.

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