Prosecutors and Ugandans who were hoping that Godfrey Kazinda would be fined heavily and ordered back to prison for many more years were left in shock after Justice Lawrence Gidudu of the Anti-Corruption Court declined to grant such prayers as he ruled on a case in which the former principal accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was found guilty of stealing Shs306.8m.
Justice Gidudu ruled that Kazinda was guilty of embezzling the money which was meant for activities which were being implemented under the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) program in West Nile and Northern Uganda
The judge convicted Kazinda of false accounting after prosecutors proved, beyond reasonable doubt, the principal accountant had held ghost regional consultative meetings whose monies he pocketed. Prosecution had gone as far as asking some of the people Kazinda had claimed had attended the meetings, only for these ‘participants’ to deny ever attending such engagements in April 2011.
Even the service providers who Kazinda had claimed had offered services such as catering, training and accommodation denied ever providing such services.
With the trouble former principal accountant convicted, it was now time for Justice Gidudu to sentence him.
Prosecution led by State Attorney Harriet Ongom proposed a 14-jail term as well as orders for the return of the stolen money on the basis that Kazinda was a ‘repeat offender.’
But the ‘repeat offender’ label was successfully challenged by both Kazinda and Justice Gidudu.
Kazinda argued that the charges for which he was convicted had been instituted in 2018, about six years into a jail term for another offence.
Gidudu ruled that he would have liked to send Kazinda to prison for a five-year jail term but was afraid the former principal accountant had gotten so used to prison.
In the end, he ruled that Kazinda pay a Shs7m fine as well as refund the Shs306.8m that he stole or be sent behind bars for 12 months in case he is unable to pay the money.
Uganda’s fight against corruption remains a challenging undertaking, with a huge chunk of the national budget ending stolen by public officials.
Just a few days ago, an opposition NUP MP was arrested as he tried to return Shs40m ‘bribe’ in cash, money he claims to have picked from the residence of the speaker of Parliament of Uganda. But Speaker Anita Annet Among has denied ever giving the legislator the money, telling him to carry his cross. (Read Story Here).