The Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala has sentenced former Soroti University Secretary Ruth Achimo Etibot to five years in jail after being found guilty on charges related to diversion of more than 1 billion shillings for the University.
The Court presided over by Lady Justice Margaret Tibulya on Thursday evening last week convicted Achimo Etibot on charges of abuse of office, two counts of diversion of public resources, one count of fraudulent false accounting and one count of false accounting by a public officer.
Achimo Etibot who doubled as the Accounting Officer was initially charged together with Edward Obeele who was the University Bursar. However, Obeele pleaded guilty to the charges through plea bargain and was sentenced to a fine.
As a result, the Prosecution led by James Khaukha proceeded with the case to full trial against Achimo Etibot.
The Prosecution led evidence in court to prove that Achimo while serving as a University Secretary/Accounting Officer signed a legal services agreement (on behalf of the university) with Okurut & Company Advocates for provision of legal services to the University without going through the formal procurement processes. The law firm was among the three law firms that were pre-qualified for legal services.
According to the evidence that was submitted to court, Achimo Etibot eventually used her position as Accounting Officer and paid to the said law firm 1,025,265,000 shillings as legal fees in a space of three months. The court heard that the said monies were diverted from capital development because the legal services were not budgeted for under the Budget for the financial Year 2017/2018 when it was diverted.
The evidence further indicates that Achimo Etibot diverted more monies from capital development to cater for staff allowances and other non-current expenditure.
As a result, the court has also heard that due to her actions, payments for capital development projects were affected and eventually, the University was penalized by the contractors for the failure to effect payments within the agreed timelines.
Despite Achimo Etibot spending the capital development funds on non-recurrent activities, she reported in the progress reports that all the capital development funds had been spent on capital development projects, which was false. The actual activities upon which the money was spent were concealed.
“The accused signed the letter forwarding the false report to the ministry of finance. She knew that she had diverted the funds without authority. And she knew that she had covered the diversion up by not reflecting it in the report she was sending. I find that the accused knowingly furnished statement or return of money received by her or entrusted to her care,” said Tibulya.
She this agreed with the court assessors that the charges against her were sufficiently proved and went ahead to enter convictions against her.
While sentencing her, the trial judge stated that the convict’s actions were irregular and with blatant impunity which no amount of explanation could sanitize. Accordingly, only an imprisonment term was befitting.
Achimo Etibot has also been disqualified from holding a public office for the next 10 years.