The former Board Chairman of National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Geoffrey Onegi Obel has been charged afresh and sent to Luzira prison in connection to the 2003 Nsimbe Estate housing project.
Onegi Obel appeared before the Anti Corruption Court this morning and denied charges of abuse of office and causing a financial loss of about UGX 8bn to the Fund.
The same charges had been dismissed in 2010 for failure by the prosecution (IGG) to prosecute them were reinstated later by the IGG.
At the same time, Court presided over by Chief Magistrate Sarah Langa committed him to the High Court to stand trial upon the request of the prosecution (IGG).
Onegi Obel’s lawyer Francis Gimara had unsuccessfully cited the famous Sam Kutesa case that states that once a suspect is out on bail and later committed to the High Court for trial, his/her bail does not elapse but instead it’s just extended.
But Chief Magistrate Langa agreed with prosecution (IGG) to deny him bail on grounds that Onegi Obel was charged afresh and committed to the High Court for trial, this he said; meant that he should be sent to Luzira prison from where he will apply for bail before the High Court.
She noted that his old case had been dismissed and he even got back his bail money of UGX 3m yet today’s case was a fresh charge.
Prosecution alleges that Onegi Obel between 2003 and 2005, while he was the board chair of NSSF, did an arbitrary act when he allegedly proposed on behalf of NSSF an illegal private business entity known as Premier Developments Ltd as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) which he and others used to into a joint venture with a private company Mugoya Estates Ltd.
The prosecution further alleges that the joint adventure between NSSF through Premier Developments and Mugoya Estates, the construction firm that was contracted to carry out the design and construction of the housing units at Nsimbe Estate, was procured without any competitive bidding and the construction fees were in excess.
The excess money extended to Mugoya Estates was over UGX 5bn. This was after the Ministry of Works, Housing and Communication assessed the development at the Nsimbe project after cessation of the operations and determined that the works executed were worth UGX 1.2 billion and yet the construction firm had received over UGX 6.8 billion.
Onegi Obel was initially charged jointly with Leonard Mpuuma, a former managing director of the Fund, former Labour minister Zoe Bakoko Bakoru who is now in exile in USA and businessman James Isabirye.
However, in March 2008, the charges against Mpuuma were dropped after he pleaded guilty to causing a financial loss of UGX 100m and he was fined.