The head of the Anti-corruption court, Justice Lawrence Gidudu has dismissed an application by Apolo Senkeeto, which sought to stay the ongoing trial of seven suspects in the Mukono-Katosi road fraud.
Senkeeto, alongside six others are accused of having had a hand in the Mukono-Katosi road fraud in which government is said to have lost over Shs 24 billion.
Dismissing it as an “absurdity”, Justice Gidudu threw out Senkeeto’s application, who, through veteran lawyer Peter Mulira, contended that the trial which has been going for over a year should be halted because there are issues the he thought the Constitutional court should interpret first before the trial proceeds.
But Gidudu dismissed the application, asserting that everything that Senkeeto wants the Constitutional court to interpret, the same court has already interpreted albeit in different cases. Mulira had told Justice Gidudu that once he laid out the issues that he thinks are to be tabled in the Constitutional court for interpretation, he had no choice but to just refer the case there.
Gidudu, however, in his ruling didn’t agree with Mulira saying that he needed first, to establish if there merits in the issues that are being pushed by Senkeeto for constitutional interpretation.
Another issue that Mulira says that Constitutional court should interpret is whether the IGG can prosecute criminal offenses though the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) hasn’t sanctioned the same.
According to Mulira, Article 120 of the Constitution vests the DPP with powers to prosecute all criminal matters and according to him, the IGG had to get the consent of that office before proceeding to prosecute Senkeeto, which he alleges she didn’t do.
However, the judge said that the Constitutional court in the case of Jim Muhwezi & 3 others of 2008 had already ruled that under Article 230, the IGG has jurisdiction to “investigate, cause investigation, arrest, cause arrest, prosecute or cause prosecution in respect of cases involving corruption, abuse of authority or of public office.”
Mulira furthermore had argued that there is a need to refer to the case to Constitutional court since the Inspector General of Government (IGG) is prosecuting his client in a criminal case yet according to the lawyer, there was no complainant against Senkeeto as the penal code envisages.
Though the IGG Irene Mulyagonja claimed the it’s was the commissioner of patriotism Lt. Col. Henry Masiko, who lodged this particular complaint against Senkeeto, Mulira said such a move is unknown in law.
“The commissioner of patriotism cannot lodge a complainant against my client,” Mulira argued, “So we need the Constitutional court to interpret if one can be prosecuted without a complainant.”
Justice Gidudu nevertheless insisted that in the Muhwezi case the Constitutional court had interpreted how the IGG can initiate criminal proceedings without being tipped off by individual thus he said there no novel points that Senkeeto was raising.
To Mulira’s contention the case should be referred to the Constitutional court because the court needs pronounce its self on whether the IGG case prosecute private individuals such as Senkeeto the judge had similar answers that he gave to Mulira in October when he raised similar issues in no case to answer session.
Justice Gidudu, repeated that the Constitutional court in the judgments of Jim Muhwezi and 3 others of 2008 Vs the Attorney General and that of Syston Kekurutso and another Vs Attorney General of 2007 concluded that the IGG has powers to prosecute private individuals who have allegedly committed corruption offenses in conjunction with public officials.
“Once the Constitutional court has interpreted the Constitution, the cases which are similar are equally dealt with,” Justice Gidudu ruled, “I’m unable to refer this case to the Constitutional court since the applicant hasn’t met the bench mark upon which I can grant the application.”
In the case, Abraham Byandala, the former minister for works and transport, is charged with abuse of office, disobedience of lawful orders and influence-peddling.
His co-accused include Ssebbugga Kimeze, a former acting executive director of Unra; Joe Ssemugooma, Unra’s former acting director for finance and administration, and Marvin Baryaruha, the former Unra legal counsel.
Senkeeto, who introduced himself as the country representative of Eutaw, and Isaac Mugote, a former Housing Finance bank employee, are accused of aiding Eutaw to forge a bid security document that helped the company win the contract.
Also on the charge sheet is Wilberforce Senjaako the former UNRA regional accountant. The case will be resuming on December 18 when Byandala will be giving his much awaited testimony.