Education officials charged over soliciting UGX228M bribe from Contractor

The four suspects were realigned before court for soliciting a bribe from a contractor. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Kampala – The Anti-Corruption court has charged four officials from the ministry of Education and Sports with conspiring to solicit a UGX 228Million bribe from a contractor.

The four suspects are Fredrick Edward Lubinga an architectural assistant, Doreen Matovu Lwanga, the acting head construction management unit, Hajji Abdu Nsubuga the project management professional and Solomon Kaigia the project coordinator at the ministry.

They appeared today Wednesday before the Anti-Corruption court Grade One magistrate Moses Nabende who charged them with five counts related to corruption, abuse of office, and conspiracy to defraud.

According to the prosecution, the suspects between August 2019 and March 2020 using their respective offices conspired to defraud Robert Nsimbe Zizinga, the owner of Synergy Enterprises Limited who had been contracted to construct structures at Nyamitanga Vocational Technical Institute in Mbarara city.

The officials allegedly demanded 10 per cent of the contract price which was worth Shs 2.28 billion to facilitate awarding of the contract to Zizinga’s company. Evidence before the court shows that the prime suspect Lubinga first solicited a bribe of Shs 50 million for which he received Shs 25 million.

Evidence also shows that on her part, Lwanga who had been appointed as the contract manager of the Uganda Skills Development Project Bushenyi cluster, irregularly issued variant contract terms and specifications to the contractor without following the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) laws and contract management thereby, frustrating and stalling construction works at the institute.

It is alleged that the suspects started making changes in the project designs to pressurize the contractor to pay them the balance of their Shs 228 million bribe demand which made the design changes costly and eventually stalled the works.

Lwanga also faces another alternative count of corruption for having corruptly neglected her duty as a contracts manager to inspect and approve the construction materials at the construction sites thereby compromising the quality of the construction.

The suspects denied the charges and through their lawyers led by Richard Rugambwa, asked to be released on bail on grounds that the charges were bailable. The lawyers also told the court that the accused have substantial sureties.

Lwanga presented engineers John Kaweesa and James Kisitu who are the directors of Gali Technical Services Limited and Semajja Associates Limited respectively as her sureties.

Hajji Nsubuga presented his brothers Ismail Nsubuga and former employee of Kenya Airways and businessman Godfrey Mabirizi Ssetimba as his sureties while Lubinga presented Florence Nabukera, his wife and his spiritual leader Ivan Wood, a pastor at Jesus My Rest Ministries as his sureties.

Kaigia presented Samuel George Mwandha the executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and City High School teacher Paul Mubezi as his sureties.

State attorney Harriet Ongom told court that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) guided that prosecutors should not object to bail during the lockdown unless in exceptional cases.

They were granted bail, but Ongom objected to the request that the suspects be released on non-cash terms. She noted that the amounts of money involved are huge, they should therefore be asked to pay cash.

Nabende concurred with Ongom and ordered Lubinga to pay Shs 4 million cash, Lwanga Shs 2 million and the other two suspects Shs 1.5 million each. He has also directed their sureties to execute a non-cash bond of Shs 50 million.

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