Andima replaces Ssali as investigation accelerates

by MMC
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Trade Minister Francis Mwebesa has appointed Geraldine Ssali’s replacement as the ministry’s first accountant, Sunday Monitor has learned.

In a terse response to the Treasury Secretary’s letter of October 3, Minister Mwebesa clearly states his appointment of “Mr. Alfred Oyo Andima, Undersecretary for Finance and Administration, Ministry of Trade, Industry and of Cooperatives, as accountant of the ministry”.

Mr. Ramathan Ggoobi, who is also permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance, had in his letter of October 3 instructed Minister Mwebesa to expedite the appointment of a new accountant for the Ministry of Commerce, after having removed Ms. Ssali of her powers .

The decision to expel Ms Ssali was based on recommendations contained in a parliamentary committee report. The commerce committee, chaired by Mr Mwine Mpaka (Mbarara South), recommended that action be taken against Ms Ssali for irregularities committed during her time as an accountant at the commerce ministry.

In his letter, Mr. Ggoobi said Ms. Ssali’s dismissal is intended to enable other state actors to open and conduct investigations into, among other things, allegations of embezzlement at the Ministry of Commerce.

“The purpose of this letter is therefore to request you, as the supervising political head of the Ministry, to nominate a suitable official, for my appointment, to carry out the functions of Accountant of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives in as long as the allegations against Ms. Geraldine Ssali and others are investigated,” Mr. Ggoobi wrote.

Mr Mpaka welcomed the recent developments, telling this publication that they vindicated the work of the House committee he chairs.

“Parliament has started to make progress. At least now it seems that some people are taking our work seriously,” Mr Mpaka said before stating that the Chamber is yet to receive the official communication from the Ministry of Commerce on the matter.

Our efforts to obtain a comment from Ms. Ssali were unsuccessful at press time.

Furthermore, Mr. Mpaka’s committee is at the end of an investigation into how an undisclosed sum of money, estimated at several billion, was allegedly swindled or abused by certain cooperative leaders. It is further alleged that they did so in cahoots with officials of the Ministry of Commerce and/or certain politicians.

The investigation was sanctioned on August 29 by President Anita Among who requested that the country’s various cooperatives be subjected to a resource optimization audit. The investigation, which took place behind closed doors, has since questioned officials from the Commerce, Finance and Justice ministries. Different leaders of different cooperatives were also put on the spot.

“Unlike other investigations where one looks at the documentation, how this money was misused, we relied more on the testimonies of various witnesses,” Mr Mpaka said of the veil of secrecy of the investigation, adding that since some of those investigated “were going to be witnesses for the prosecution (…) we needed recorded sessions and we had to create an environment in which someone could testify freely.

He further noted that since these are cash transactions and not documents, closed sessions allow “witnesses to testify without being intimidated and without fearing for their lives.” Despite this, the commerce commission encountered several obstacles, Mr Mpaka revealed, in trying to verify allegations made against some cooperatives.

“Some meetings we had planned with them, like the one at the East Mengo cooperative, are elusive and we have reason to believe they are hiding something because we invited them three times and they didn’t show up,” Mr Mpaka told Sunday Monitor.

He added: “So we asked for help from the police to search for these people and bring them in.” There are about five cooperatives, and we also have witnesses who have disappeared. So we’re looking for these witnesses as we analyze the documentation.

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