June 7, 2013

Lukwago Fails to Show up in Court, Judge Extends Arrest Warrant

The state has protested what it calls delaying tactics by the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Asuman Lukwago in order to avoid plea taking in connection to the corruption charges slapped against him.
Dr Asuman Lukwago, the Health  Ministry's Permanent Secretary is a wanted Man
Dr Asuman Lukwago, the Health Ministry’s Permanent Secretary is a wanted Man

The state has protested what it calls delaying tactics by the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Asuman Lukwago in order to avoid plea taking in connection to the corruption charges slapped against him.

The spirited protest was made by state attorney, Ms Jane Abodo before the Anti Corruption Court presided over by Chief Magistrate, Ms Irene Akankwasa.

Dr Lukwago (47) is among others wanted in court for conspiring with 3 other MOH officials by attempting to steal over Shs1 billion  from the ministry’s Global Fund project.

He was set to appear and plead to the charges today but did not appear.

His lawyers; Mwenekihima Mwesigye, Dr James Akampumuza and Jotham Mugarua, informed court that their client (Dr Lukwago) is sick and could therefore not attend court.

The lawyers explained that Dr Lukwago is suffering from a bone marrow depression problem and that his health condition is complicated.

The advocates also unsuccessfully asked court to halt the proceedings against Dr Lukwago and refer a constitutional question to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.

They wanted the Constitutional Court to interpret whether criminal summons can be issued against a suspect in an instance when he/she is represented in court by his lawyers.

State attorney Abodo, in protest, argued that Lukwago’s lawyers had not presented to court a medical document to substantiate the claims that their client is recommended for bed rest and therefore can’t attend court.

She said this was a delaying tactic by Dr Lukwago and his lawyers so as not to take plea.

Abodo further argued that the application made before the court was without a background and with that court can’t just refer every question to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.

Dr Lukwago, in an interview with the media about a week ago, claimed that he is being witch hunted and that his enemies want him to appear before court and thereafter, be interdicted till the matter is completed.

Dr Lukwago further in the interview, vowed that his enemies will not succeed on this venture.

In a related development, Dr Lukwago’s co-accused, Mr Ponziano Nyeko (46), an Assistant Commissioner in the Health Ministry also appeared in court today and denied the corruption charges.

He was released on a cash bail of Shs10million. He was also ordered to deposit his passport in the court.

Court adjourned the matter to June 19 at midday and also issued criminal summons for Dr Lukwago to appear on that date and take plea.
The court substituted his warrant of arrest orders earlier to lenient orders of criminal summons.

This was after the defense lawyers successfully argued that it was improper  for the prosecution to jump stages of procedure and ask for warrant of arrest instead of criminal summons.

Background
Dr Lukwago is 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.

He is separately charged with 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.

According to the charge sheet, 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).

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