Anti-corruption court on Tuesday remanded former Works and Transport minister, Abraham Byandala, to Luzira prison for his involvement in Katosi road scandal that cost government Shs 24.6bn.
The minister without Portfolio was arrested by Inspectorate of Government and SIU agents, charged with two counts of abuse of office, disobedience of lawful orders and influence peddling and sent on remand for two weeks.
It was a sad day for the Byandala family, friends and relatives atleast from the way they expressed it in tears, tears and tears…all through the brief trial.
Byandala expected to secure bail as assured by the presence of powerful sureties; Samuel Odonga Otto, the Aruu county MP; Nyombi Thembo, the minister of state for ICT and Maj Gen David Muhoozi, the army commander of the land forces.
Unfortunately, the presiding magistrate Julius Borore, said he had no time to hear a bail application and sent him straight to prison.
Also charged were; Eng Ssebbugga Kimeze, the former acting executive director of Unra, Joe Ssemugooma, the former acting director of finance and administration, and Apolo Senkeeto, Eutaw’s country representative, and Isaac Mugote, a former Housing Finance bank employee accused of aiding Eutaw to forge a bid security document that helped them win the contract.
The minister and his family burst in tears
According to the pictures we have seen, the pain was too much yet their family member is accused of misusing public resources.
A section of Ugandans thinks when the pain of family members is expressed in public as was the spectacle at Kololo, government officials will think twice before embezzling ordinary people’s money.
But in Uganda, the happiest people are certainly the beneficiaries of corruption; those who live on stolen funds; live in palaces, drive posh cars, hang in expensive places lavishly, join prestigious colleges of the world, come back around speaking sophisticated English, argues Justus Amanya, a social media critic.
According to the critic, the more pain transferred to the next of kin, the better in eliminating a culture of thieving “where the corrupt win cases in court and money is never recovered”.
“We need faces of the corrupt suspects and their families displayed so that the cost of being corrupt is so great that no one even dares think about it.”
Tumwebaze is not the cause of Byandala family’s pain
Other sections were quick to accuse the minister for the presidency, Frank Tumwebaze, of causing the Byandala family this much pain.
Byandala’s problems started with his handling of the Mukono-Kyetume-Katosi/Kisoga-Nyenga road contract while serving as minister of works and transport.
The government lost at least Shs 24bn after an American sham company, Eutaw secured the contract and was paid Shs 24bn even before due diligence could be done to verify the credibility of the company.
Byandala wrote a letter to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), asking them to award the contract before the due diligence.
Irene Mulyagonja, the Inspector General of Government (IGG), says Byandala on August 27, 2014 ordered the continuation of the road works, the formalization of the illegal sub-contract of the works by Eutaw to another firm named Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO), and ensuring that an agreement was signed between the two which was done without reasonable excuse and in total defiance of the order of her office.
Byandala blames his troubles on Tumwebaze
In August 2014, Byandala in an interview with The Observer, accused John Nasasira, minister for ICT, and Frank Tumwebaze, the minister for the Presidency of working against him.
“They want me out of office,” Byandala said, adding: “These stories were taken to the New Vision by Frank Tumwebaze.”
Asked why Tumwebaze would fight him, Byandala replied: “Maybe it’s a group game because the major sponsor of this is [John] Nasasira. I have got these people who talk on radios. They tell me that they have been promised money and that the moment they win this war, they will buy them cars. They have been given money to go to the radios [and tarnish my name].”
He further alleged that Tumwebaze was connected to High Tides, the firm retained by Eutaw as procurement consultants.
Tumwebaze’s relatives involved?
It was at the same time media reports linked Tumwebaze’s relatives to the Katosi saga.
Betty Kyasiimire, a senior official with Serena-based High Tides Ltd, and a one Joseph, a city lawyer highly believed to be Tumwebaze’s sister and cousin, respectively, featured in the scandal.
Documents signed between EUTAW and High Tides Ltd, showed that the former was under immense pressure to pay the latter, USD1M in less than 48hrs after receiving the first advance from Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), reported The Investigator.
“The first party [EUTAW] shall make this payment to the second party United States Dollars One Million within twenty four hours and in any case, not more than 48 hours after UNRA has paid the first party the first advance payment after contract award…,” read one of the agreements dated December 1st 2010 and whose total contract figure is USD1.7M, with Kyasiimire for High Tides and Kwesiga as a witness.
Tumwebaze reportedly told The Investigator, “Don’t involve me in stories that have been cooked by political schemers. If you want to be used, go ahead and publish what you want. I will ably defend myself. Let whoever is giving you the story give you all the facts you want…”
On Byandala accusations, Tumwebaze told The Observer, “I haven’t heard my brother Hon Byandala say all what you are attributing to him, so I will not respond in detail for now. But irrespective of who is making the allegations, outrightly know those are falsehoods cooked up and may be intended to divert attention.”
In March 2015, as he entered his office as minister without portfolio, Byandala would work under Tumwebaze.
Asked about the kind of relationship he envisaged with Tumwebaze, who was “fighting” him earlier, Byandala said: “Why would Tumwebaze, who was not in Works, fight me?”