The trial of the three former Health Ministers Jim Muhwezi, Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha, and former State House aide Alice Kaboyo, turned dramatic after the three former ministers accused the state of making a deliberate attempt to deny them a fair trial.
Drama ensued shortly after the defendants Lawyers walked out of court to protest a decision by the Chief Magistrate to overrule their preliminary objections.
The lawyers, Peter Kabatsi, Oscar Kambona, Chris Bakiiza and Fred Muwema, started off the day's hearing with a query on the jurisdiction of the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Margaret Tibulya to prosecute corruption cases. They said they want the Court of Appeals to interpret the Prevention of Corruption Act under which their clients are being prosecuted.
The lawyers argued that the charges against the former ministers merit only embezzlement charges and should not be tried under the corruption law. They said the IGG incorporated cases like forgery and theft over which she has no jurisdiction. But the Penal Code empowers the IGG to investigate, prosecute and cause prosecution of cases related to abuse of office and corruption.
They said an interpretation by the Court of Appeals would sort this out. But the Chief Magistrate overruled the application arguing that the defense was given three months within which to settle its concerns. She said the trial would go on with or without the defense lawyers, prompting rage among the accused.
In protest to this decision, the defense lawyers walked out and as promised, Tibulya proceeded with the case with testimony from the first prosecution witness.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Muhwezi's lawyer Oscar Kambona and Fred Muwema, Mike Mukula's lawyer said they do not expect to get justice for their clients.
//Cue in: iWe cannot be party to#
Cue out: #consider a nullity.i//
Back in the Courtroom, the three former Ministers tried in vain to persuade the Chief Magistrate to grant them more time to sort out their defence issues. But the chief magistrate took no heed to their plea prompting the visibly upset Ministers to confront her for denying them their right to legal representation.
Without elaborating, Jim Muhwezi said there was more to the case than just the loss of money adding that he had lost hope in achieving any justice under the current circumstances.
Mike Mukula, on the other hand said the accused were deprived of their right to legal representation while Alex Kamugisha questioned the validity of the Court session and asked Court to nullify the proceedings.
//Cue in: iThis was unexpected#
Cue out:#with this case.i//
Meanwhile appearing in court, the first witness George Gustavio, an Accounts General in the Finance Ministry responsible for opening all Government accounts in and outside Uganda said that the three former Ministers breached the Government procedure by authorizing the release of funds.
Under the Public Finance and Accountability Act, the accounting officer is the only person authorized to release funds. The same act streamlines the procedures under which different Government organs can transfer payments.
In his testimony, Gustavio said Kaboyo's case, letters requesting for funds from the GAVI Account should have been written by the State House Comptroller addressed directly to the Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry.
The defendants refused to cross examine the witness saying they couldn't do this without legal representation.
The case was adjourned to Monday for mention.