Court sets hearing date for Minister Nandutu’s trial in Iron Sheets case

State Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Agnes Nandutu, at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kololo, Kampala. PHOTO/Courtesy

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court has set 25th May as the date to start hearing the case in which State Minister for Karamoja affairs, Agnes Nandutu is accused of diverting iron sheets meant for the Karamoja Region

Presiding over the court session on Wednesday, the trial judge, Lady Justice Jane Kajuga Okuo directed state prosecution to complete the disclosure of evidence against Nandutu to her lawyers by May, 5, 2023 before trial officially kicks off on May, 25.

Nandutu was two weeks ago charged and committed to the high court for allegedly dealing with suspected stolen iron sheets meant for the vulnerable people of Karamoja sub-region.

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State prosecution led by Mr David Bisamunyu and Mr Jonathan Muwaganya told court that during the month of June 2022, Minister Nandutu dealt with 2000pre-painted Iron sheets of gauge 28 marked “Office of the Prime Minister” by receiving and holding them, having reason to believe that they were acquired as a result of loss of property.

On her first appearance before the court, Nandutu was not given a chance to apply for bail like her counter-parts including her senior minister Mary Goretti Kitutu and state minister for planning, Amos Lugolobi, because investigations into her case were reportedly complete and she was accordingly sent to High Court for trial. Additionally, the Director of Public Prosecutions disclosed to her evidence she intends to rely on during the trial.

Prosecution added that after being appointed minister in 2021, her ministry received a supplementary budget of Shs39.9 billion meant for the disarmament and community development empowerment programme and it was used to provide goats and iron sheets for reformed youth worriers (Karuchunas) and other vulnerable groups like the elderly and women.

However, on June 8, 2022, a fellow suspect Josua Abaho, a personal assistant to Kitutu wrote an internal memo to the accounting officer (OPM) Seremba Geoffrey requesting for the release of 10000 pre-painted Iron sheets for Moroto district to be used at the official launch of the distribution of iron sheets by the president but instead, Abaho picked 1000 iron sheets leaving a balance of 9000.

Prosecution further stated that in June 2022, minister Kitutu called Nandutu on phone and informed her that she had given her 2000 iron sheets purportedly to help Landslide victims whose houses had been swept away, well knowing that the iron sheets were 9000 and were meant for the official launch in Moroto.

Evidence tabled further showed that Ms Nandutu accepted the offer and paid Shs750, 000 to facilitate the transportation of iron sheets from the OPM stores at Namanve to her home in Namusera -Wakiso district where she confirmed the actual total before directing her personal assistant to have the iron sheets transported to her other home in Kkola cell in Seeta-Mukono.

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That on 24th and 25th March 2023, the Evidence response team conducted a search at her Farm in Kkola cell and recovered 1617 Iron sheets but Nandutu failed to account for the whereabouts of the missing 383 iron sheets.

The DPP will also rely on documentary evidence including; the terms and conditions of Nandutu’s 2021 appointment letter as junior minister for Karamoja, a delivery note for the said Iron sheets, her specimen signatures and handwriting, budget comparisons, the Auditor General’s report among other documents to prove charges against her.

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