Katosi road scam: minister Byandala to also plead guilty

The Minister without Portfolio Eng. Abraham Byandala has requested for a plea bargain to enable him plead guilty to corruption charges in exchange for a lesser sentence.

The request was made through his lawyer Nsubuga Mubiru to court presided over by justice Lawrence Gidudu this morning. The judge gave the Inspector General of Government (IGG) - the main prosecutor for the case and Byandala's legal team, up to April 29 to discuss the possibility of embracing plea bargain.

Plea bargain is an agreement initiated by the judiciary in a criminal case between the prosecutor and the accused person whereby the latter agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some concession from the prosecutor.

A voluntary plea of guilt under this mechanism may see the number or severity of the charges against an accused person or their punishment reduced. Byandala is facing 16 counts of abuse of office, disobedience of lawful orders, influence peddling, causing financial loss, corruption, theft, obtaining money by false pretense, uttering false documents and conspiracy to defraud the government.

The charges stem from an investigation for his role in the illegal award of a contract to EUTAW, a sham firm that was contracted to construct the Mukono-Katosi road.

Byandala is alleged to have used his office as transport minister to influence the issuance of contract in which, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) awarded Shs 165bn task to a briefcase company, EUTAW before completion of the due diligence process.

A report by the IGG pinned Byandala for forcing UNRA to sign and advance Shs 24.7bn to the firm. It was later discovered that EUTAW Construction Company did not have relations to the firm in the US that it used as its parent company.

Byandala denied all charges against him. Another suspect Joe Ssemugooma, the former director finance and administration at UNRA had earlier expressed interest in pleading guilty under the plea bargain arrangement.
Court however heard that the talks with the IGG had not materialized. They equally have been given more time to talk in an open environment and come up with answers by April 29.

A new suspect; Wilberforce Ssajakko, the regional UNRA accountant for Kampala was this morning charged over this road scam bringing the total number of suspects to seven.

The others are Eng. Berunado Ssebbugga Kimeze, the former acting executive director of UNRA, Marvin Baryaruha, the former legal counsel of UNRA, business man Apollo Senkeeto alias Kalyesubula Mark and Isaac Mugote, a former employee of Housing Finance Bank.

Source: The Observer