Judge guides assessor on Kazinda case

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KAMPALA-  Anti-Corruption Court Judge Lawrence Gidudu yesterday guided a court assessor on which particular pieces of evidence to look at and give opinion on whether to convict or acquit the jailed former principal accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Geoffrey Kazinda.

This case involves Kazinda and three others on charges of embezzling more than Shs316m from OPM.

They are alleged to have submitted wrong accountabilities for fuel drawn from Caltex Ntinda Service Station now called TOTAL yet no fuel was consumed.

“I direct you to consider and evaluate the prosecution evidence against the defence evidence as a whole. Weigh the case for each side against the other concurrently,” the judge told the assessor. “Advise me if each of the charges against each of the accused persons has been proved beyond reasonable doubt or not.”

The assessor Ferrer Okech was asked to look at the evidence of Mr Pius Bigirimana, Kazinda’s then superior and accounting officer in the OPM.

Mr Bigirimana testified that as the accounting officer at the time, he never approved the fuel transactions.

Mr Bigirimana further testified that Kazinda illegally acquired the rights of an accounting officer and approved those payments.

Kazinda is jointly charged with Ms Beatrice Kezabu (assistant resettlement officer), who is also separately charged with false accounting; Ms Shamim Masembe, the proprietor of TOTAL fuel station in Ntinda and businessman Hussein Katumwa, the station manager.

“Do you believe that the money received on Ntinda Caltex service station account between 22nd and 25th of June 2010 as shown above was legitimate money coming from the OPM to the Petrol Station as payment for fuel that was consumed by OPM or not.?” Justice Gidudu pointed out to the assessor, adding: “ Do you believe there was theft of the money from the OPM through the account of Ntinda Caltex Service Station or not?”

Justice Gidudu set March 31 for the assessor to give his opinion on the case.

The assessor’s opinion is a lay man’s advice to the court about a given case they have been following but their opinion is not binding on the judge. The judge has the final say on the verdict and is not bound by the assessor’s opinion.

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