Former Soroti University Secretary Jailed For Embezzling Over Shs 1 billion university funds

Former Soroti University Secretary Jailed For Embezzling Over Shs 1 billion university funds

Former Soroti University secretary, Ruth Achimo Etibot has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of diverting over Shs 1 billion university funds.

The Anti-Corruption court presided over by lady justice Margaret Tibulya convicted Achimo 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 who doubled as the accounting officer was initially charged together with Edward Obeele,  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.

The prosecution proved to court 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 the 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 to offer legal services.

As stated in the evidence that was submitted to court, Achimo eventually used her position as accounting officer and paid the said law firm  Shs 1,025,265,000 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 financial year 2017/2018 when it was diverted. 

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The evidence further indicates that Achimo diverted more monies from capital development to cater for staff allowances and other non-current expenditures

As a result, the court 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 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 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.

Achimo also been disqualified from holding a public office for the next 10 years.

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