Arua Municipal Council Treasurer Convicted for Diversion of Road Funds

Anti-corruption High Court Judge Lawrence Gidudu on Friday convicted Erejo Kamil Rajab, the Arua Municipal Council Principal Treasurer for mismanagement and diversion of road funds.

Rajab was handed a 3-year jail sentence or a fine of Shs 4,800,000.

He was also disqualified from holding public office for the next 10 years, effective from the date of conviction.

Convicting Rajab, the judge based on the fact that there was no loss of money through theft and that the convict did not personally gain from the said diversion save for a few allowances which he received as a staff member.

The Judge also considered the fact that Arua Municipal Council is already making recoveries and refunding the Uganda Road Fund.

As a result, the convict was not ordered to compensate the Government for the loss.

The gist of the prosecution case in the first three counts was that during the Financial Year 2017/2018, the Municipal Town Clerks jointly indicted with Erejo Kamil Rajab, diverted money which was meant for Uganda Road Fund (URF) activities, to the payment of councilors and staff allowances to the tune of Uganda Shillings 168,558,683.

In the alternative, they were charged with abusing their offices by using URF funds for paying staff and councillors’ allowances.

In the fourth count, Erejo Kamil Rajab was individually indicted for diversion of money which was meant for URF activities to the tune of Shs 1,050,000, for a purpose that was unrelated to that for which the funds were intended.

While delivering the sentence, the Judge noted that although the claims were legitimate, if the convict had done his job of ensuring that he monitors the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the claims should have remained unpaid.

“He was obliged to monitor the TSA, and he failed to do so. He slept on the job and caused a mischarge,” the Judge said.

House background

During Financial Year 2017/2018, Erejo Kamil Rajab was the Municipal Treasurer Arua Municipal Council. Kibwota Andrew Otim was the Municipal Town Clerk in the first quarter, Bagonza Joseph was the Municipal Town Clerk in the second Quarter, and Kasajja Jamil Kairu was Municipal Town Clerk in part of the second quarter and 3rd & 4th quarters.

Kibwota Andrew Otim, Bagonza Joseph and Kasajja Jamil Kairu were acquitted of the charges of diversion on account of insufficiency of evidence. Consequently, the alternative charges of Abuse of Office could not stand against them either.

Erejo Kamil Rajab was also acquitted on the count of Diversion of Shs 1,050,000.

However, he was convicted of Diversion of Shs 81,461,632 meant for road funds which was diverted during the 4th quarter. He had been indicted jointly with Kasajja Jamil Kairu on this count.

While delivering the judgment, the Judge highlighted the mandate of the Municipal Town Clerk and that of the Municipal Treasurer derived under the Local Government Financial and Accounting Regulations 2007.

The Judge rejected the defense by the Municipal Treasurer that he simply implemented the directives of the Town Clerk.

“The Municipal Treasurer is not a paying machine. He is responsible for the money and accounts for it. That is what he is employed to do,” the Judge said.

“We are in court because the Treasurer did not do his work. He slept on the job” retorted the judge.

The judge noted that while the Municipal Town Clerk and Municipal Treasurer work hand in hand, and, the Town Clerk has overall authority, the mandate to monitor the system and vote expenditure is vested in the Municipal Treasurer who has the duty to raise the flag to prevent mischarges and overcharges.

He rejected Erejo’s defense that he was mistaken by the TSA as an afterthought. He had prior knowledge of the poor performance of the Local Revenue a duty which also fell under his mandate to execute, which he had failed to do.

“The Treasury Single Account does not monitor itself. It is the duty of the Municipal Treasurer to monitor the account and do so on a monthly basis and raise the flags in order to halt further expenditure where a vote is exhausted,” the judge said.

Although the learned Judge acquitted Kasajja Jamil Kairu, he faulted him as the Accounting Officer for failing in his duties.

“Whereas he may not necessarily have participated in the commission of the diversion of funds, he failed in his duty as the supervisor of the Municipal Treasurer.”

“Kasajja Jamil should have demanded for monthly budget execution and reconciliation reports. He failed to supervise the Treasurer, an action that is negligent. He lacked the management ability; he was a weak supervisor. He should have been charged with neglect of duty,” the Judge said.

The case was prosecuted jointly by Abigail Agaba – Chief State Attorney and Stephen Ariong – State Attorney, from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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