COSASE boss left astounded as IGG's lets UNBS boss Ebiru off corruption hook

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Joel Ssenyonyi, the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE), expressed his astonishment at the Inspector General of Government (IGG)'s decision to drop corruption charges against David Ebiru, the former head of Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).

This move comes despite the government being provided with overwhelming evidence of Ebiru confessing to paying a bribe of Shs100 million to extend his contract.

"During the COSASE inquiry into UNBS, we publicly presented these messages to then ED David Ebiru, and he admitted that the messages were true and were exchanged between him and a board member. It is shocking that charges against him have now been withdrawn without a valid reason," wrote Ssenyonyi on his former Twitter handle.

However, Patricia Ochan, Deputy IGG, defended the decision to drop the charges against Ebiru in a media interview.

She stated that COSASE only provided the proceedings of the Committee without accompanying evidence of the board members soliciting or receiving the alleged bribe. This lack of evidence made it difficult for the IGG to sustain the bribery charges against Ebiru in court.

"In law, we do not go to court with hearsay. We attempted to conduct investigations, but they did not lead us anywhere. Therefore, we found it wise to withdraw the case against Ebiru. The IGG needs to prove in court that someone asked for the bribe, and cases of corruption involve both the giver and taker of the bribe," said Ochan.

Ochan further explained that the Inspectorate did not have the necessary evidence to pin Ebiru on corruption because he simply confessed to giving a bribe.

Additional evidence is required to corroborate his statements due to the high standard of proof.

"As the IGG, we were unable to gather this evidence because it does not exist. That is why we could not sustain those charges in court. However, we have other cases in UNBS, and we are proceeding with those," said Ochan.

Ochan also addressed the criticism of withdrawing the charges without providing reasons, stating that under the Inspectorate of Government Act, the IGG is not obligated to explain the reasons for withdrawing charges to the public.

"When we make decisions like these, we are not mandated or obliged to explain the reasons under the law. However, due to the controversy surrounding this particular case, it is important to provide an explanation. If the Minister of Trade fails to prove the case against Ebiru, he will resume his office because the allegations against him have not been sustained," said Ochan.

The state recently withdrew the bribery charges against Ebiru.

In a letter to the Anti-Corruption Court dated October 25, 2023, Achan stated that the ombudsman is no longer interested in pursuing the case against Ebiru.

"Take notice that the Government of Uganda intends to discontinue the proceedings against Livingstone Ebiru," stated Achan in the letter.

Although charges had been filed against Ebiru, he has never been formally charged in court, despite being arrested by the police.

Ebiru was arrested on July 26, 2023, and taken to court but was returned to the police under unclear circumstances without being formally arraigned.

He was scheduled to appear in court on October 31, 2023, to enter a plea.

Ebiru's problems began when he appeared before COSASE and admitted to paying a Shs100 million bribe in an attempt to prevent the termination of his contract.

"I confess that I bribed the board to secure my position. The Shs100 million was handed over to one board member for distribution," said Ebiru.

Consequently, he was dismissed from his position as the UNBS Executive Director by the Minister for Trade, Francis Mwebesa, after being found guilty of misconduct, mismanagement, and misappropriation of funds.

The IGG later took an interest in the matter and issued an arrest warrant against Ebiru. In a warrant issued on July 21, 2023, by Deputy IGG Anne Twinomugisah Muhairwe, police officers were ordered to arrest Ebiru to answer allegations related to corruption.

"Although Mr Ebiru was ordered to appear before the Inspectorate of Government on July 21, 2023, at 2 p.m. and subsequent days to provide testimony or furnish information in relation to an ongoing inquiry, he did not comply with the summons and did not provide any evidence for his failure to respond," stated the Deputy IGG in the arrest warrant.

Therefore, the ombudsman directed any officer who encounters Ebiru to arrest him.

He was subsequently taken to court on July 26 but was not formally charged.

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