Six netted over shs1.9bn Maracha school project saga

By Andrew Cohen Amvesi             

MARACHA. Police have arrested six Maracha district officials over allegations of abuse of office and misappropriation of UGX1.9 billion.

The officials were arrested on Tuesday and are currently being detained at Arua Central Police Station (CPS) pending further investigation into the matter.

Festus Ayikobua, the Maracha Resident District Commissioner (RDC) confirmed the arrest and said police are waiting for instructions to produce the suspects before the Anti-Corruption court.

Festus Ayikobua, the Maracha Resident District Commissioner (RDC) confirmed the arrest

He identified those arrested as Timothy Ezati, the Maracha District Engineer, Flavia Osoa, the District Education Officer (DEO), Paul Abiribale Tatia, the District Internal Auditor and Nolah Avako, the Senior Environment Officer.

Others are a police officer attached to Maracha CPS and the DEO’s driver who are pinned for attempting to interfere with the arrest of the district bosses.

Meanwhile Ayikobua said efforts are underway to also have Christopher Okumu, the then Maracha district CAO arrested over the same matter.

The arrest of the officials was made after the suspects were subjected to a full day grilling over the money which was meant for different projects at Kololo Seed Secondary School in Tara Sub County.

Reports indicate that part of the money was allegedly swindled and as a result, the visibly shoddy projects stalled due to lack of funds yet all the dime was wired to the district coffers for that purpose and used to dot.

After numerous investigations into the matter, the RDC got instructions from Peter Ogwang, the state minister for economic monitoring in the President’s Office to ensure that all the concerned officers are arrested and brought to book.

While addressing journalists on Tuesday evening, Ayikobua commended the West Nile regional police officers at Arua CPS for cooperating with him in ensuring that the above officials were finally arrested.

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“I’m really so happy for our security at the region level who have now taken it upon themselves to see together with me that this project money should not really go without having these people implicated or arrested,” Ayikobua said.

“The persons whom we are now holding responsible for this mess are; the main actor is the district engineer, Timothy Ezati who should have guided all the technical people who were working with him because the certificates of payments were generated by him after even seeing that there was no value for money and the next person is the Internal Auditor, Paul Abiribale Tatia,” Ayikobua said.

He explained that the Internal Auditor by profession would have ensured that money can’t be released unless what it is being paid for is seen (value for money).

“By the time when these people were supposed to prepare the certificate of payment, the entire district leaders who were supposed to do the supervision were supposed to go to the site and see whether what they were going to pay money for is worthy or not, and that is why the Internal Auditor shouldn’t have made any mistake of signing that certificate for payment without seeing the value for money,” Ayikobua said.

“We also have the DEO, Flavia Osoa, who was arrested because this project is under education. By policy when a project is under a department, the person who is in charge becomes a project manager or a supervisor at that level. She also signed the certificate of payment and that is why we are saying, was she aware of what she was signing?” the RDC asked.

Ayikobua said for Nolah Avako, the Senior Environment Officer failed in performing her role of ensuring that the ground was leveled before putting the structures because money was allocated for that purpose.

“It was the role of the Environment officer to say that this area needs to be graded for us to have a better foundation. That is why you begin to see where the shoddy work started and I expected the district leaders by that time to take an active part to even stop the construction from the day go. Even the issue of using the eucalyptus to put ceiling boards wouldn’t have come if the environmental officer was keen on what she is supposed to do,” Ayikobua stated.

He said the police officer leaked security information to the suspects while DEO’s driver wanted to have access to security details concerning the suspects from the office of the RDC by force, a reason he has been arrested.

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