The Commander of the Uganda People’s Defence Air force (UPDAF), Maj Gen Samuel Turyagyenda, has said his signature was forged by unscrupulous people in the recruitment and maintenance of a suspected “ghost” Russian pilot.
The Commander of the Uganda People’s Defence Air force (UPDAF), Maj Gen Samuel Turyagyenda, has said his signature was forged by unscrupulous people in the recruitment and maintenance of a suspected “ghost” Russian pilot on the army’s payroll for a period of 11 years.
During the period between October 2005 and February this year, the army paid the “ghost” pilot, a one Valeri Ketrisk, alias Keti Ketriski SK, $618,000 (approximately Shs2.7 billion) in monthly salaries and another $120,000 (approximately Shs402 million) in gratuities.
Payments were only stopped after the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen Katumba Wamala, instituted an internal probe into alleged “consistent reports pertaining to gross mismanagement of resources in the Air force”.
The preliminary report of a team of investigators comprising Maj Martin Nsengiyunva from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Ms Rose Nabakoza and Ms Grace Apio from the police’s Crime Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) and Capt Apollo Ahimbise from the Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) of UPDAF, alleged that Maj Gen Turyagyenda, who took over as head of the Air force in May 2013, may have known about the “ghost” contract since he was one of the high ranking officers at the time.
The report named nine other people – two of them (Lt Komunda and Maj Zakama) since dead – as either having known about the ghost pilot contract or participated in creating it in one way or the other.
According to the report, one of the nine, who was a paymaster at the Air force headquarters, received Shs3.5million from the “ghost” pilot. The money is said to have been transferred into his account in Centenary Bank on November 7, 2005.
Sources in the Ministry of Defence told Daily Monitor that under normal circumstances, recruitment of expatriate workers are initiated by user departments.
“In the case of the Air Force it is initiated by the Air Force Base Commander, and approved by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force who forwards them to the Chief of Air force, who approves and forwards the contract documents to the Ministry of Defence headquarters for clearance and formal approval of the contracts,” the source said.
The investigators’ report, a copy of which Daily Monitor has seen, says Gen Turyagyenda, who was the Deputy Chief of the Force at the time the Ministry of Defence entered into the contract with the ghost pilot, had appended his signature and stamp to the contract documents.
“On 27 January 2009, he recommended Valerie Ketrisk amongst other expatriates for amendment of contract and appended his signature. He is the sole person responsible for identifying, recruiting and recommending Russians for expertise and contracts at UPDAF,” the report read in part.
The investigators alleged that unless there was collusion on his part, Maj Gen Turyagenda should have detected the fraud given the crucial role that his office plays in the process of procuring expatriate workers.
“Maintaining the false employee for more than 10 years on the nominal roll and payable strength is an omission on his (Maj Gen Turyagyenda’s) part,” the report says in parts.
Maj Gen Turyagyenda, however, denied involvement in the fraud. “I was not involved in any way. My signature and stamp were forged,” he told Daily Monitor on phone yesterday morning.
Gen Turyagyenda said that he has been away from his duty station and only got to know about the fraud through the newspapers.
He said he is arranging to meet the CDF, Gen Katumba, over the matter.