President Yoweri Museveni has spoken out on allegations that foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa received a $500,000 bribe from a Chinese company as well as the investigations into the closure of banks.
Museveni, addressing a press conference at his office in Kampala after commissioning a new State House anti-corruption unit, said investigations were underway to ascertain the truth about the bribe allegations.
“I asked Kutesa the other day about the bribe allegations.He told me the money was for a charity organisation. It is a crime if he received the money. I have asked the minister to get in touch with the Attorney General to get the facts about the allegation and to crosscheck whether money was for a charity organisation,” Museveni said.
The President was responding to a question from a reporter who asked him whether he would take action against the foreign affairs minister if it was proven that he solicited a bribe.
“It is a question of time. We shall fi nd out the truth about the matter. We are investigating ourselves,” Museveni said.
Last week, a federal jury in New York convicted the head of a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) based in Hong Kong and Virginia on seven counts for his participation in a multi-million-dollar scheme allegedly to bribe top officials of Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages fora Chinese oil and gas company.
Chi Ping Patrick Ho, aka Patrick C.P. Ho, 69, of Hong Kong,China, was found guilty after a one-week jury trial before US district judge Loretta A. Preska in the southern district of New York. Ho is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Preska on March 14, 2019.
Patrick is the head of a nongovernmental organisation based in Hong Kong and Arlington, Virginia, the China Energy Fund Committee (CEFCNGO), which held “special consultative status” with the UN Economic and Social Council.
CEFC NGO was funded by CEFC China. Prosecution alleged that Kutesa received a $500,000 (about sh1.8b) bribe wired through New York. It was alleged that Patrick Ho met Kutesa when he was the 69th president of the UN General Assembly and they discussed a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and CEFC China for various business ventures.
Court was told that Kutesa solicited a payment from Patrick Ho, purportedly for a charitable foundation that Kutesa wished to launch. In turn, Ho allegedly, on behalf of CEFC China, asked for an invitation to Museveni’s inauguration, business meetings with President Museveni and other high level Ugandan officials and a list of specific business projects in Uganda that CEFC China could participate in.
Bank of Uganda probe
Asked about the Bank of Uganda (BOU) probe, the President faulted the manner in which the parliamentary committee on commissions, statutory authorities and state enterprises (COSASE) was handing the probe into the closed banks, holding public hearing in full view of television cameras.
“The procedure is wrong. The method of investigations should be confidentially handled. I have not found time to talk to the Speaker of Parliament,” Museveni said.
“Why do you put witnesses on camera? Why don’t you investigate quietly and then take action.”
However, the President said he had no problem with the committee conducting investigations, except its method of work. He hinted that he too had issues with BOU, but did not divulge details. He hastened to add that BOU had done a good job such as controlling inflation.
President Museveni also commended the good work being done by the land commission headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
State House anti-corruption unit
Museveni said the new unit headed by Lt Col Edith Nakalema would not usurp the Inspector General of Government (IGG)’s powers but instead compliment government’s efforts to fight corruption.
“I needed an office managed by someone who is fearless,upright, a bit quarrelsome, talkative but cannot conceal a wrong. That is Nakalema. When she completed her military training in the UK, I tasked her with starting a channel to receive corruption complaints from the public,” Museveni said.
The President said Nakalema’s unit had so far received over 7,000 complaints since its inception in September.
How the unit works
When complaints come through, they are digitally recorded,categorized and sent to relevant government offices for follow up.
The anti-corruption agencies that receive complaints include IGG, Director of Public Prosecutions, Auditor General and Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority for action. The unit has a screen that displays the number of complaints received; calls responded to, not picked and pending complaints for a particular day.
As the caller gives details about a complaint, the system automatically records the conversation between the caller and a recipient at the unit. This is to ensure that each complaint is followed to its logical conclusion.
Nakalema completed an advanced command and staff course at the Joint Services and Command Staff College at the UK Defence Academy in Shriven ham. Before the training, she was President Museveni’s personal assistant. Earlier Nakalema had served in the elite Special Forces Command.