Drama ensued in the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on October 29 as Chief Magistrate Pamella Lamunu Ochaya remanded Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) chairperson Sylvia Muwebwa Ntambi to Kigo Prison until November 04.
But the drama did not start with Thursday’s court action.
Muwebwa had snubbed three court summons, prompting Lamunu to threaten issuance of a warrant of arrest.
A whistleblower in the corruption and fraud case disrupted proceedings when he accused Muwebwa of presenting fake documents in court.
Identified as Hakim, the whistleblower told court that he had evidence to prove that Muwebwa had forged a medical report to lie that she had previously been unable to attend court because she was nursing hypertension symptoms.
But Hakim claimed he had a recorded video in which a nurse at Medik Hospital, where Muwebwa said she had been treated, makes it clear that the EOC boss has not been to the health facility nor been treated there in recent months.
The Hakim drama would only end after court orderlies attached to Uganda Police Force (UPF) Counter Terrorism Unit whisked him away.
In court, Lamunu read to Muwembwa charges, including causing financial loss, embezzlement, corruption, abuse of office, and conspiracy to defraud.
But she denied these charges.
Muwebwa and nine other EOC employees face 25 counts related to the loss of over Shs35m.
Her co-accused are: Mujuni Mpitsi, the secretary to the commission; Sunday Nicholas Olwor, the undersecretary; Moses Mugabe, a monitoring and evaluation officer, Harriet Byangire, a senior accountant; Edith Kamahoro, a senior personal secretary; Ronnie Kwesiga, an accounts assistant; Evans Jjemba, the principal compliance officer; Manasseh Kwihangana, a senior compliance officer, and Sarah Nassanga, an office attendant.
According to prosecution, Commission Chairperson Muwebwa, between July 2018 and April 2019, while at the Equal Opportunities Commission offices in Kampala, neglected her duties and responsibilities, resulting in financial loss.
Prosecution further alleges that Muwebwa connived with the nine co-accused to abuse their offices to defraud government. Consequently, between January and December 2018, they paid themselves the money in question as per diem for reportedly taking part in the drafting and editing of HIV/AIDS workplace policy.
In particular, Kamahoro obtained the money (part of which should have facilitated the commission’s sensitization activities on rights and equity in the districts of Karamoja as well as for an audit exercise of the Rural Electrification Programme in Uganda.
It is this money that Mpitsi went ahead and approved before the accused shared it amongst themselves.
THE BAIL APPLICATION
After denying the charges, for which her co-accused are already undergoing trial, Muwebwa applied for bail.
Through her lawyer Brian Kabafunzaki, Muwebwa presented sureties to support her bail application.
They were Julius Mukunda of (Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBag), Patricia Munabi of Forum for Women in Democracy (Fowode) and Zamina Malore of EOC.
But Lamunu ruled that two of the sureties had not come clear about their places of work.
Prosecution, led by State Attorney Harriet Ongom, also argued that there was no point in granting Muwebwa bail since she had ignored three court summons – and there was no guarantee she would return to court once released.
Ongom further submitted that the fact that Muwebwa had lied about her medical condition – even when she had reportedly not been to Medik Hospital as she claimed – was enough to show that she would not be trusted to honour court summons.
The state attorney further reasoned that the sureties Muwebwa had presented were not substantial since they lacked the requisite identification documents.
She further asserted that Muwebwa, like her co-accused, should be committed to the High Court for trial since investigations into her case were already complete.