The Minister of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija has defended himself as “innocent” in the Karamoja iron sheets scandal— saying he was tricked into the saga that has sucked several government dogs including Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.
Kasaija said that whereas he received iron sheets from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), he did not request for them nor did he know they were meant for the people of Karamoja.
“I never applied for those iron sheets but I got them. Someone rang and said ‘Hon. Kasaija, OPM is donating iron sheets for you’ and the next thing I see, the iron sheets have been delivered. Even now there is a bundle of 300 iron sheets in my store in Kibaale,” Kasaija who is also the MP for Buyanja County, said.
He said this on Wednesday, 01 March 2023 while appearing before the Committee on Presidential Affairs chaired by Hon. Jesca Ababiku which is currently investigating allegations of mismanagement of relief items meant for the people of Karamoja following a petition by the Karamoja legislators on 15 February 2023.
The minister was providing information regarding the financing of the OPM activities in Karamoja before he requested to put the record clear as one of the beneficiaries of the relief items following stormy media reports.
Kasaija added that he had earlier also received 450 iron sheets which he used for roofing a government school in his constituency.
“So members crucify me knowing I am totally innocent. I never asked for them; the iron sheets found me in my compound,” he said.
He said he is a victim of circumstance who is ready to return the remaining 300 iron sheets that are lying in his compound.
“I did not know the iron sheets were for Karamoja. I even want to return them now that I know they were meant for Karamoja people,” Kasaija said.
Ababiku said they are going to write to all ministers who benefited to make formal statements.
In the Financial Year 2021/2022, Shs30 billion supplementary budget was allocated to OPM to support the disarmament process and support livelihoods of Karimojong youths through provision of agriculture inputs like goats as an emergency intervention to improve peace and eliminate cattle rustling in the region.
Similarly, the Finance Ministry was in 2022/2023 required to provide Shs135 billion from the Contingency Fund to support households at risk of food insecurity in Karamoja and other parts of the country.
The fund was meant to purchase relief items of maize flour and beans for a period of three months for an estimated population of 518,000 persons.