Minister Kutesa faces UK travel ban over Chogm
The UK and US governments have secretly been working to impose a travel ban on a number of Ugandan officials, with Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa as the first choice for visa restrictions, over allegations they pilfered Chogm money.
US envoy Jerry Lanier in a diplomatic cable, leaked by whistleblower website, Wikileaks, told Washington: “We regard Kutesa’s corruption as egregious, but believe Security Minister Amama Mbabazi’s continued misappropriation of public funds will have an adverse impact on US national interests in Uganda.” Both ministers deny any involvement in corruption and have not been convicted in any courts of law.
MPs who investigated the Chogm spending, accused Mr Mbabazi of influencing selection of Balton (U) Ltd firm to supply TETRA communication equipment at an “inflated” $5m (Shs14b). They asked IGG Raphael Baku to carry out further investigations, which he did and cleared Mr Mbabazi.
Yesterday, Mr Baku, who said he had not cleared Mr Kutesa, accused by MPs of interfering in Chogm procurements for personal gain. “The investigations are still ongoing,” Mr baku said.
Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya is the only other high-ranking government official, besides indicted former works chief Sam Bagonza, to face trial for allegedly siphoning part of the more than Shs500b monies.
The British High Commissioner Philip Mani reacted angrily that such confidential information had leaked: “It is our policy not to comment on the substance of leaked documents. We condemn any unauthorised release of this classified information, just as we condemn leaks of classified material in the UK.” If effected, the decision to slap travel ban would most likely stop the individuals from conducting business and expose some of their reported investments overseas to possible seizures.
Mr Kutesa neither received nor returned both our telephone call and text message to his mobile telephone. Mr Mbabazi too could not answer our repeated telephone calls.
In the diplomatic cable, Mr Lanier reported that an official at the British High Commission in Kampala and another from the Department for International Development on January 7 informed the US embassy’s Political/Economic Affairs Chief, Aaron Sampson, that the UK is “seriously considering visa restrictions for Ugandan officials guilty of embezzling Chogm-related funds”.
Ambassador Lanier mentioned Minister Kutesa as UK’s “primary target” for the travel ban and its officials were likely to ask the US to follow suit once the review of Chogm expenditure by the High Commission was completed.
UK’s outrage at the embezzlement of the funds was separately reported to US embassy officials by an ex-Ugandan ambassador to the UN and a local magazine journalist who said they had been informed by contacts in London way back last December.
We could not reach Mr Lanier, or any US embassy official to speak on the matter yesterday, because the officials were off duty.