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Soroti University secretary charged with embezzlement of Shs1.6 billion

GRAFT | The Anti-Corruption Court has charged Soroti University Secretary Ruth Etibot Achimo with five counts of diverting public resources and ordered her to stay away from office until the case is disposed of.

Achimo was on Thursday arrested in Soroti by detectives from Kampala on the orders of State House Anti-graft unit, and driven to Kampala to face charges of diverting Shs1.6 billion of public funds. She was on Friday arraigned before the anti-graft court in Kololo.

Her co-accused, the university bursar, Edward Obeeke, was absent. The court issued criminal summons for the bursar.

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The court granted the accused bail and set April 29 for commencement of hearing of the case.

Prosecution alleges that the two between officials diverted Shs1.6 billion form Soriti University coffers over a period of one year from June 2017.

The arrest of Achimo follows an internal audit whose report dated August 2, 2018, raised the red flag over gross mismanaged of Shs1 billion of university funds, with auditors pointing out connivance between her office and that of the bursar to effect double payments to lawyers, contractors and herself.

Specifically, Soroti University internal auditor James Odongo queried why Shs513 million was paid to M/S Okurut and Company Advocates between April and June 2018 yet the firm was contracted on a retainer monthly fee of Shs15 million.

Citing the gross anomaly of lack of supporting documents, the auditor said the contracted law firm was also paid doubles of Shs61 million and another Shs277 million on June 22, 2018, before yet another Shs58 million was paid on July 5, 2018.

Prosecution also says auditors exposed blatant theft of public funds in a particular incident in which Achimo was indicted for abuse of office, but after winning the case, she paid herself Shs172 million through M/S Alliance Advocates as compensation for damages.

Before Grade one Magistrate Moses Nabende on Friday, Achimo denied the charges and applied for bail through her lawyers, Godfrey Turyamusiima and Denis Mudhola.

She presented her three siblings as sureties amid protests from State Prosecutor Praise Asiimwe, who argued that none of her sureties was capable of paying bond in case the accused vanished.

But Nabende sided with the defence team and granted Achimo Shs10 million cash bail. He also bonded the three sureties at a non-cash of Shs300 million each.

Achimo’s siblings who staked their heads for her temporary reprieve are Dr Charles Omagol, a lecturer at Kyambogo University, Simon Orena, a businessman, and Angella Okula, who runs a private recreation facility in Soroti.

In the court, the siblings had showed just why they were there for Achimo, fending off cameras from flashing her.

Achimo was also ordered to deposit her passport with court.

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