The high profile corruption case involving the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) Vincent Gatwabuyege and the Director General of CEPEX, George Katurebe was on Monday postponed to May 5.
CEPEX is the Central Public Investment and External Finance Bureau, an institution under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning that coordinates public investments.
Katurebe, Gatwabuyege and their co-accused who include Faustin Gacinya, who was the Director of Finance, Jean Ngarambe, John Bosco Habyarimana, and Eliab Ngarambe had yesterday appeared before the Gasabo High Instance Court to face the charges.
The case was adjourned after Gatwabuyege, who is the principle defendant in the case, requested for time to study prosecution evidence which they he was presented to them late by the prosecution.
The officials are accused of embezzling or mismanaging government funds amounting to 1.7bn Rwf.
All the five former employees of MININFRA are accused of two counts of forgery and corruption while Katurebe is accused of a single count of corruption.
Gatwabuyege was arrested in December last year for interfering with the tendering processes to illegally award tenders to his accomplices at inflated rates leading to further government loss.
He has since been replaced at the high profile office by Marie Claire Mukasine.
Katurebe and Gatwabuyege are jointly accused of complicity in illegally exonerating STRABAG, a German road-construction company, from paying a Rwf 453m.fine imposed on it by the government over breach of contract.
Meanwhile, defence lawyers may object to the witnesses lined up by prosecution to testify against them saying the witnesses are somehow related to the State.
The witnesses expected to testify include Jean Marie Rakotomalala Parisoa, Stefan Markus Euchenhofer and Djamel Derguini, all employees of Studi International, the firm which was hired by the Government to supervise the construction works of the Kigali-Bugesera Highway.
The firm is currently under contract by the government, which according to the lawyers may motivate them to give biased testimony.
“We shall however wait until the case starts in substance to present our worries because the case has not yet started,” said Athanase Rutabingwa, said Katurebe’s lawyer.
After the brief session, the calm looking Katurebe, Gatwabuyege and their co-accused proceeded to the main courtroom where they interacted with their families and friends who had filled the room, before they were driven away.
When contacted, the Spokesperson of the National Public Prosecution Authority, Augustin Nkusi said the argument of the lawyers which is based on article 59 of the Penal Code was ‘baseless’ and the state intends to stand its ground on the witnesses.
“The law states that the court must endure to obtain the right information to support the case, it doesn’t matter on the person or their position, as long as the information is substantial” said Nkusi.
Nkusi also added that the article will soon be amended as has been the case is in many countries, citing the ICTR which dropped the article that excludes witnesses who might be linked to the defendant on grounds that they are likely to be biased in their testimonies.
The mentioned witnesses were supposed to testify on how they connived with Gatwabuyege to support a forged letter that eventually secured the Rwf 453 millions which STRABAG owned the government in fines for failure to meet its contractual obligations.
The government had signed a contract with STRABAG, to construct the Kigali-Bugesera road specifying the exact period the construction would take.
Part of the contract specified a fine the company would face in the event that the agreed time elapsed before the construction was completed.
STRABAG failed to meet its contractual obligations which automatically meant that the construction company was liable to pay the fine.
The two (Katurebe and Gatwabuyege) are alleged of having brought a loss to the government which is punishable under article 17 and 18 of the Anti Corruption Law, according to Nkusi.