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Education ministry scam: Auditor ‘framed’ on sexual offense

Kampala– A ministry of Education official and police officers face accusations of forging a case of sexual harassment against an auditor who unearthed the rot in the ministry, a police report shows.

The development is another twist in the unfolding rot at the Education ministry in which officials are accused of massive corruption, abuse of office, fictitious procurements and embezzlement of public resources.

Saturday Monitor has seen the report by the police’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU) implicating Ms Nicole Kisawuzi, an administrator with the Education ministry; Detective Assistant Superintendent of Police Mirriam Akullo; and Detective Constable Tonny Ogwal in the scheme to frame Mr Martin Muhanga, one of the whistleblowers, who blew the lid on the years of rot in the Education ministry.

PSU is the entity responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by police officers.

On July 7, Saturday Monitor, basing on leaked audit reports and insider accounts, detailed some of the allegations against top officials at the Education ministry. To date, the ministry is yet to officially respond to the allegations which we first presented to them on June 29, despite promises and threats to counter the same.

The report 
In the police report, the trio are accused of orchestrating “forgery” and “false utterances of documents” in an attempt to manufacture a sexual harassment case against Mr Muhanga.

The February 16 report authored by Detective Inspector of Police Moses Mulooki and examined by Assistant Commissioner of Police Billy Baryabasa recommends that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) prosecutes the three on the allegations.

“The case papers should be forwarded to DPP for perusal and legal guidance since the case involves forgery and false utterances of documents by Nicole Kisawuzi, D/ASP Mirriam Akullo and No. 32382 D/C Tonny Ogwal,” the PSU report reads in part.

In the report, Mr Mulooki observes that “there was compromise and influence on creating a sexual harassment case entry in the station diary”.

The observation is based on the finding by the investigators that Ms Akullo, with influence from Ms Kisawuzi, wrote an unsolicited letter to the Education Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza informing him about the fictitious case. Ms Akullo, investigators found, was aided by Detective Constable Ogwal.

“The fraudulent creation of a fictitious case and authoring of a letter is an act of discreditable or irregular conduct. This kind of behaviour in itself is disorderly and prejudicial to the discipline or likely to bring discredit on the reputation of the Force or to cause an injury to the Public Service …” the investigators observe.

We contacted DPP director Mike Chibita about the status of the file which, according to police sources, was shortly after compilation six months ago in February handed over to his office for sanctioning.

Ms Irene Nakimbugwe, the DPP deputy spokesperson, returned with this response: “The file is here with us. They are still perusing it. The officer who is reading it is not available now. He is at a workshop and so we haven’t yet known the decision that has been taken.”

How it unfolded
Between July and August 2016, an audit was carried out by Mr Muhanga, a senior Internal Auditor in the ministry of Education, on “stolen iPads”.

The iPads case was one of the examples cited in various reports to illustrate allegations of abuse of office, stealing government property, inflating school enrolment, receiving allowances for no work done, bribing and colluding with auditors to circumvent queries, irregular recruitment and nepotism, among other things.

The audit followed a June 30, 2016 procurement of 315 Samsung Galaxy tablets and other accessories from Kazinga Channel Office World at a cost of Shs831,492,900 by the Education ministry.

The tablets and accessories were for monitoring the School Facilities Grant (SFG) civil works and Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) activities.

Of these, 225 tablets and accessories were transferred to the examination body. The rest remained at the ministry headquarters and a decision was taken to distribute some of the remaining pieces to the ministry officials.

Of the remaining 90, only 57 were signed off by Ms Kisawuzi, the project administrator, to be distributed according to the distribution list, which was also not fully signed at the time it was presented to the auditors.

The same 90, especially the 33 that were stolen, also became a subject of an audit by Mr Muhanga, and it is these, according to the police report, that landed him in trouble with some of his colleagues.

A case of alleged theft of the 33 tablets was reported and investigated by the Central Police Station Kampala under reference numbers CRBs 856/2017 and 856/017, in which Ms Kisawuzi was the prime suspect, according to police records.

With the results of the investigations pinning her, Ms Kisawuzi contacted her lawyers, Byaruhanga & Company Advocates, who in turn wrote to Mr Muhanga on June 20 informing him of a complaint of sexual harassment of their client, Ms Kisawuzi at her place of work.

The letter indicated that the matter was under investigations at Kabalagala Police Station under SD 45/08/02/2016. It was copied to Education PS Kakooza.

On learning about the letter, Mr Muhanga, through his lawyers, Tumwesigye Baingana & Co. Advocates, wrote to the officer-in-charge criminal investigations at Kabalagala Police Station seeking a police report on the case that had been referenced to enable them respond to the allegations before him.

“The Divisional CID Officer, Kabalagala, in his response vide a letter ref KBI/CID/4/VOL.1/86/17 dated July 10, 2017 stated that they never received any complaint of alleged sexual harassment of Ms Nicole Kisawuzi and that the case reference number SD 45/08/02/2016 quoted was for theft of a mobile phone,” the PSU report reads in part.

The Divisional CID officer Kabalagala then contacted Ms Kisawuzi on her cellphone (number withheld) and she informed him that the said sexual harassment case was reported at CPS Kampala and not Kabalagala as quoted, the report shows.

On July 13, 2017, Mr Muhanga’s lawyers then wrote to the officer-in-charge of criminal investigations at CPS Kampala.

They were again requesting for a report on the matter that was then referenced SD 45/08/02/2016 from CPS Kampala to enable them respond to the allegations.

“The Divisional CID officer CPS Kampala, D/ASP Joshua Tusingwire, in his letter ref: CPS K’LA/CID/2/VOL.4/79 dated July 26, 2017 addressed to Tumwesigye, Baingana & Co.

Advocates, denied having registered any case of sexual harassment against Martin Muhanga vide CPS Kampala SD 45/08/02/2016 and it was copied to the Permanent Secretary, ministry of Education and M/S Kasirye Byaruhanga & Co. Advocates,” the investigators note in the PSU report.

Ms Akullo, who was Mr Tusingwire’s deputy, would, however, on August 9, 2017 author and sign off another letter (ref: CPS K’LA/CID/ 2/4/85) addressed to the Education PS forwarding a report on alleged sexual harassment by Mr Muhanga via SD 45/08/02/2016. The letter was copied to both Mr Muhanga and Ms Kisawuzi’s lawyer.

“I established that CPS Kampala SD 45/08/02/2016 in respect to alleged sexual harassment was created by tampering with the original entry of a theft case, which details were torn away and replaced with the details of sexual harassment,” Mr Mulooki writes in the PSU report.

Mr Mulooki adds: “I critically studied the original case file CPS Kampala SD/45/08/02/2016 (CRB 1152/2017) that was forwarded to us by the Head of Criminal Case Tracking Task Team-D/SSP Odong Mark Paul and established that the case file was created on June 22, 2017 and addressed to the officer-in-charge of records, who allocated it to D/C Ogwal to conduct the necessary investigations on instructions of the deputy Divisional CID officer CPS Kampala-D/ASP Akullo Mariam.

“I further established that the statement of Kisawuzi Nicole was recorded by D/C Ogwal and back dated it to February 8, 2016. As a procedure and practice, a case file is opened, dispatched to the Records Officer, who forwards it to the Divisional CID Officer for allocation.

In this particular case, D/ASP Wetaaya Fredrick, who was then the Divisional CID Officer when the said controversial case file was allegedly opened, did not receive any information regarding the said case as claimed by D/ASP Akullo Mirriam and No. 32382 D/C Ogwal Tonny.

“The Police officers on duty on the February 8, 2016 at CPS Kampala Counter were No. 24635 Sgt Nabirye Alice Mujubira and No. 40429 PC Nagudi Hadijah, who entered SD reference Numbers 44/08/02/2016 and 45/08/02/2016 at 15.23hrs and 15.36hrs, respectively.

Therefore, it is evident that the entry made under the fictitious SD 45/08/02/2016 of sexual harassment by No. 32382 D/C Ogwal Tonny was fraudulently entered into the station diary book.”

Summary of the allegations

The following are the key allegations made against officials in the Education ministry as embodied in petitions to the Inspectorate of Government and carried in the Saturday Monitor of July 7.

Inexistent work paid for: Allegations of swindling public resources touch “irregular” payments to Mott McDonald Ltd, a global management, engineering and development consultancy for the review of the Education Sector ECD Policy and operational standards.

The firm was contracted to do the work under the Uganda Teacher and School Effectiveness Project supervised by the World Bank at a cost of $1.3m (Shs5b).

Inflated school enrolment: Sources say an individual was hired by a “cartel” in the ministry and his sole job is to inflate the numbers of students across schools to the benefit of the “cartel”. The planning department of the ministry, specifically the statistics unit, is cited as having taken the lead on this.

Inflated school land purchase: Education Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza, allegedly working with Ms Jane Nantale Ssekikubo, Dr Daniel Nkaada, the commissioner for Basic Education and the acting head of the Procurement Unit in the ministry, plus some officers in the ministry of Lands and the office of the Solicitor General, are accused of orchestrating a move to purchase three acres of school land in Kiwanga, Mukono District, at Shs2.5b.

The owner of the land, a one Ssegane, is reported to have asked for only Shs500m.

Stolen donor funds: Between 2008 and 2017, the Dutch government supported Uganda with €22m (Shs98.2b) to revitalise education service delivery in Lango and Acholi sub-regions.

Available audit report indicate gross mismanagement of the project, with little to show for the billions of the donor money spent on the same.

Expensive padlocks: Inflated costs of 9,200 padlocks which were purchased at more than double the cost of those available on the market.

An audit report shows that the price of the padlocks of the tri-circle brand purchased at unit price of Shs19,000 each in reality cost a maximum of Shs8000 each. The government, according to the audit report, lost at least Shs101.2m in this particular deal.

Stolen IPads: On June 30, 2016 the ministry procured and received 315 Samsung Galaxy Tablets and other accessories from Kazinga Channel Office World at a cost of Shs832m.

The tablets and accessories were for monitoring the school facilities grant, civil works and Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) activities.

Of these, 225 tablets and accessories were transferred Uneb, 57 were distributed to ministry staff and the remaining tablets vanished from the stores

Unaccounted for advances: Documents indicate that the ministry has a lot of unaccounted for advances where people draw money and do not go to the field at all.

Auditors forced not to work: A “well-orchestrated” plan to prevent auditors from doing any serious work in what is believed to be fear that their audits will unearth the trail of corruption.

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