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Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kahinda Otafiire has stopped Dr Rose Nassali Lukwago, the secretary to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), from returning to office today due to a pending criminal trial before the Anti-Corruption Court.
Gen Otafiire on October 4 wrote to the chairperson of the JSC, Justice Benjamin Kabiito, directing him to stop Dr Nassali from resuming her duties pending consultations with President Museveni.
“In this regard, as requested in your letter, I am once again taking up the matter with the appointing authority. In the meantime, I advise that in addition to measures you have already taken, you communicate to Dr Nassali to inform her that she cannot assume office in the JSC in view of the fact that she has a pending criminal trial and that her appointment letter does not indicate the JSC as the place of her deployment,” Gen Otafiire wrote.
He continued: “Additionally, considering that the contract of Dr Nassali had expired and her appointment does not indicate the place of deployment, it cannot be assumed that she automatically returns as secretary to JSC until the appointing authority has expressly stated so.”
Gen Otafiire also says that given the sensitive nature of the mandate of the JSC that, among others recruits and disciplines errant officers, its secretary has to be a person of high integrity, who is not facing a criminal trial like the case with Dr Nassali.
“These provisions echo considerations of public policy aspirations and expectations of society given the sensitive nature of the mandate of the JSC which oversees, recruits and disciplines judicial officers. It’s desirable, therefore, that the secretary of the JSC is of high moral standing, integrity and above reproach and not a person subject to a criminal trial,” the minister added.
Dr Nassali was on August 8, arrested by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court where she was charged with causing a financial loss to government after she allegedly paid Shs33.8m to a consulting firm illegally.
The charges arose from her work at the Education ministry where she had worked before joining the JSC.
She is currently out of prison on bail. Her case resumes today for hearing before the Anti-Corruption court with the prosecution expected to update the Chief Magistrate, Pamela Lumunu Ocaya, on the progress of investigations.
In his letter, the minister further states that although he does not object to the reappointment of Dr Nassali because of presumption of innocence until one is proved guilty, such an appointment should be done subject to the law.
He cited the Public Service Standing Orders, which provides for interdiction of a civil servant facing criminal charges, to pave way for investigations and conclusion of their case.
Speaking to this newspaper last week, Ms Munira Ali, the IGG spokesperson, promised to move the head of Public Service, Mr John Mitala, to interdict Dr Nassali after she showed up at the commission offices in Kampala on Wednesday last week to resume work.
Ms Munira explained that at the time Dr Nassali was charged in court [August this year], her contract at the JSC had expired, hence there was no need to cause her interdiction.
Last week, Dr Nassali told Daily Monitor that President Museveni had given her another mandate and she was ready to resume her work at the JSC.
“I have been given another opportunity to serve the people of Uganda and I am back in office,” she said.
Dr Nassali is jointly charged with Dr Opio Okiror, a former commissioner of health services, who is the current commissioner for human resource at the Judiciary and Mr Cuthbert Kagabo, a former deputy director of AH Consulting Ltd.
She denies the charges.
Its alleged that in 2014/ 2015 at the Education ministry in Kampala, Dr Nassali, Dr Okiror, Mr Kawooya and Mr Kagabo, unlawfully facilitated an overpayment to AH consulting Ltd, well knowing that the acts would cause a financial loss of Shs33.8 million to government.
The IGG further alleges that in August 2014 at the Education ministry in abuse of the authority of her office, Dr Nassali contracted AH Consulting Ltd to recruit five technical staff to work for the ADB V HEST project well aware that the required five technical staff had already been recruited, which act was prejudicial to the interests of government.
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