GASABO - The jailed Executive Secretary of the Eastern Province, Charles Gasana, yesterday appeared before the Kacyiru Lower Instance Court and pleaded innocent to the embezzlement charges against him. He also sought a provisional release while investigations in the case proceed.
Gasana, who has been in custody at Remera Police Station since last week, appeared for the first time before the court yesterday to face the Prosecution’s allegations against him.
He is accused, together with Alexis Mugarura, a local businessman who won the tender to construct the Eastern Province headquarters, of having been involved in the embezzlement of government funds.
During the court proceedings, Prosecutor Eugene Sakindi maintained that Gasana, as the coordinator of the construction activities, must be held accountable for authorising payments that are contrary to what the initial contract stipulated.
The initial contract signed between Mugarura Enterprise and the Eastern Province, shows that the execution of the project would have cost around Rwf 1.7 billion, but Mugarura later asked for price adjustment that were estimated at Rwf 659 m.
Gasana is accused of having signed the papers approving this amount, while the money would be sourced from the Ministry of Infrastructure that had stepped in after the Eastern Province had run out of cash to carry on construction works.
Flanked by his defence lawyers Alfred Bandora and Frank Mubangizi, Gasana explained that he had done his job accordingly and when he handed over to MININFRA to carry on with construction works, he did not have any power over decisions on issues related to money.
“I did my job as prescribed and there is no way I can be guilty of what I am being accused,” he pleaded.
“I only ask for a provisional release now,” he said elaborating that he would go into the merits of his case when the trial starts in substance.
Meanwhile, Mugarura who was also at the court, explained that he asked for price adjustments after realising that prices had increased on the general market, and that he followed the legal procedures while doing that.
One of his defence lawyers, Jean Bosco Kazungu, told the court that his client did not commit any offence by raising his queries with the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) instead of the Eastern Province as the other contractor.
“MININFRA was also a signatory to the initial contract, so that proved its role as a government entity,” Kazungu said adding that it is not for his client to question why things had shifted from Eastern Province to MININFRA. “His work was only construction.”
Both Gasana and Mugarura’s defence lawyers also expressed concerns as to why their clients should be summoned about the amount of money that was yet to be released when they were arrested.
After the trial that took around three hours, the President of the Kacyiru Lower Court of Instance said that a verdict would be pronounced today at 3:30 pm.