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Trade Ministry bosses, city law firms in ‘hot soup’ over sh20bn stolen from cooperatives compensation

Kampala, (UG): The State House Anti-Corruption Unit and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) have commenced arrests of officials at the Ministry of Trade Industries and Cooperatives officials for allegedly conniving with city law firms to steal billions of money meant to compensate cooperatives for the losses incurred during the liberation war and insurgencies.

According to a report which first appeared on TheExplorer, a local online publication, it is alleged that the move to compensate the cooperatives was decided upon by the cabinet in 2015 but the cunning officials drafted a plan to enrich their ‘greedy’ selves at the expensive of the would-be beneficiaries.

The publication further confirms that the intelligence-led joint operation by ISO and the State House anti-corruption Unit, Police on Tuesday, September 05, led to the arrest of one Robert Bariyo Barigye, the Commissioner of Cooperatives Development at the Ministry of Trade who was nabbed in Rukungiri after he went into hiding following a tip-off that he was being hunted for massive corruption scandals involving billions.

A source from the Anti-corruption unit who preferred anonymity for his safety affirms that Barigye who is also known as Bob in his circles was involved in a huge corruption act with other big personalities in the Ministry of Trade who used Law firms to swindle billions of money meant to compensate cooperatives for war loss.

The Source revealed that some other people involved are Mpakibi Waiswa, the Assistant Commissioner of Cooperatives at the Ministry of Trade, Kavundira Leonard, the Principal Cooperatives Officer, Magero Henry, the Chairman of Jinja Multipurpose Cooperative Society and Lubanga Ngobi, the Secretary of Jinja Multipurpose Cooperative.

The source also noted that the scandal involved more prominent figures at the Ministry of Trade but declined to mention the officials claiming that the Anti-corruption units investigating this case are still gathering evidence against them.

However, the source revealed that the Law firms involved in the big scandal include Matovu and Matovu Advocates, Kirya and Co Advocates, Probata Advocates, Makada and Co Advocates and some managers from Cooperatives that were supposed to receive the compensations.

In one specific case, the whistleblower further acclaim that where the Ministry of Trade was supposed to compensate Buyaka Growers Cooperative Society based in Bugiri a total stipend of six billion shillings, only five billion was paid, an indication of 1 Billion stolen in the process. This payment was purportedly effected by Kirya and Co Advocates.

The scandal deepens further with revelations from the Source that indicates that out of 6.8 Billion paid to Buyaka Growers through Probata Advocates and Kirya and Co Advocates, only 490 Million was received through their DFCU Bank account 01113678444848 while a sum of 6.3 Billion was stolen by the law firms and the Ministry of Trade officials.

On another occasion, a total of 5.3 Billion also meant for Buyaka Cooperative Society was transferred to Kirya and Co advocates. Out of the 5.3 Billion, 1.5 Billion meant for Buyaka was paid to Probata Advocates.

Behind this transaction, the source has revealed that investigations indicate that Leonard Kavundira, Principal Cooperative officer at the Ministry of Trade had forced Buyaka to sign a Memorandum of Understanding entitling the firm to 30 per cent of the money. However, the last nail to the coffin is that the law firm has only remitted 200 Million of the total sum.

How the scandal was unearthed

Following intelligence reports, the President of Uganda directed the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to work with the Internal Security Organization – ISO on what he termed as “Massive Corruption” in the war loss Compensations to Cooperatives.

The Source said that on 7th August 2023, ISO and the State House Anti-Corruption Unit launched an investigation into the issue focusing on Busoga Growers Cooperatives Union Ltd, Jinja Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society and Namisindwa District-based Buyaka Growers Cooperative Society.

Following these investigations, some of the corrupt officials have been arrested in the Case of Barigye Robert who was arrested from his hideout in Rukungiri.

The source also indicated that more officials will soon be arrested by the investigating units. He also said that measures to deter the suspects from escaping from the country have been put in place.

The source also revealed that this scandal involves some Members of Parliament on the Budget Committee who he refrained from mentioning.

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