The 7-year jail sentence of former Uganda Red Cross Society Secretary General Richard Michael Nataka has split Bagisu, The Inspector can reliably reveal.
Nataka was last week handed a seven-year jail term for defrauding his (now former) employer of more than Shs1.2bn in a well-orchestrated corruption syndicate.
Particularly, he was found guilty of seven counts including embezzlement, causing financial loss, abuse of office, and four separate counts of conspiracy to defraud.
Evidence adduced in court by prosecution showed that between January and September 2013, the Uganda Red Cross Society then led by Nataka awarded a contract for the construction of the African Youth Leadership and Training Centre at Namakwa in Mukono District two companies namely Jesani Construction Company and Buki Enterprises.
However, it was later found that, in an act of shameless corruption, Nataka approved payment of only Shs200m out of more than the Shs1bn meant for the construction to Jesani Construction Company, which had done all the work. The rest of the money was then mysteriously given to Buki Enterprises despite there not being any trace of work it did in respect of the same contract. When quizzed, Nataka didn’t dispute the fraudulent payment although he couldn’t explain why he effected it.
For this corruption, Nataka was sentenced to 7 years in prison, ordered to refund more than shs1bn to government and was also banned from holding any public office for the next 10 years. Previously, Nataka was being tried together with Geoffrey Serunjogi and Geoffrey Wepondi, the Deputy Director for Finance at the Uganda Red Cross Society. However, his co-accused were acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence to pin them.
Nataka to appeal sentence
The news of Nataka’s sentencing have since drawn mixed reactions throughout Bugisu. While some quarters believe their man should be left free, there were also pockets of celebration of the man’s predicament when news of his sad fate spread.
We have reliably learnt that the former group believes that after nine years of waiting to know his fate, Nataka has lost so much and even had a reflection in heart that a lengthy sentence serves to only hang him more rather than correcting him.
It is this group which is pushing him to appeal the sentence on account that he wasn’t given a fair hearing.
NATAKA WOES SUCK IN UMUKHUKHA FIGHTS
Interestingly, Nataka’s woes have sucked in the ongoing Umukhukha wrangles, with rival factions split between jubilating over his downfall and feeling sorrow for the woes of another of their gallant sons. We have established that Nataka has been a mainstay in Bugisu cultural affairs, having served as a minister in the cabinet of late Umukhukha, Sir Bob Mushikoli.
As a result, he has been a main cog in the camp of Amran Wegabyalire, which draws its strength from late Mushikoli having been unofficially endorsed by the deceased Umukhukha to take over from him shortly before his demise. ’s endorsement. Incidentally, even hitherto Nataka co-accused Geoffrey Wepondi, who is Wegabyalire’s secretary general, belongs to the same camp. It has now emerged that Nataka’s sentencing — which finally confirms his guilt— has turned into a weapon the rival Paul Jude Mudoma faction is using to discredit Wegabyalire as a man whose camp is full of crooks. This on account that even Wepondi, his secretary, was implicated in the Red Cross corruption saga; despite his eventual acquittal.
“The Mudoma camp campaigners are now telling Bagisu that they shouldn’t risk supporting a man whos camp is full of thieves. On the other hand, the Wegabyalire faction is saying that their man shouldn’t be discredited because of individual actions of his supporter(s),” a source told The Inspector. It is on account of the latter sentiment, according to sources, that the Wegabyalire faction is calling for prayers to Nataka to overcome his battles; especially now that he has shown intention to appeal the sentence.
It has also emerged that the Wegabyalire group has since gone to court petitioning that their man be declared the next Umukhukha. The petition follows impatience growing among the Bagisu following apparent failure by the government through the minister of gender and cultural affairs to amicably solve the impasse for a long time now. We have learnt that court will pronounce itself on the matter on March 31, 2022.
CRUSHED POLITICAL HOPES
It is now clear that Nataka’s incarceration hugely dents his political ambitions. This is because for slightly over two decades now, Nataka has chased the Bubulo West MP seat in vain. Nakata’s first shot at this seat was in 2001. He then returned in the 2014 by-elections in the pursuit to replace controversial MP Tonny Kipoi who abdicated his seat after he was cited in shady deals.
By that time, his woes at the Red Cross were already on. Sources revealed to us that although heavily ‘moneyed’ at that time, the Red Cross corruption ghosts came in to haunt him as voters taunted him for being a thief. Others advanced the theory that he was looking for a ‘political shield’ from his scandal after being fired by Uganda Red Cross Society. Nakata went on the defensive, taking every available chance to explain to the voters that he willingly resigned from URCS October 21, 2013 unlike claims that he was sacked.
His political tour seemed to have given him some sort of escape until 2018 when he was found guilty five years after he committed the crime. He however somehow stayed out of jail until last week when he was finally sentenced and handed over to Luzira prison’s Murchison Bay section.
Nataka’s final attempt to join parliament was last year, when he contested in the heavily crowded Bubulo west MP race which attracted 16 aspirants. Notable among them was Nataka himself, former Bubulo West MP Wanzusi Washieba, and former Manafwa district woman MP contestant Rose Mutonyi among others. Nataka lost the election with 6,396 votes in what seemed like a dress rehearsal of his loss of the battle to escape jail over corruption. And unless his appeal is successful, Nataka will for now join the league of Bugisu’s once shining stars which have since dimmed with disgrace and pity!