Ugandan Minister Charged with Stealing Metal Roofing Sheets

Published: 11 April 2023

Kampala UgandaKampala, Uganda's capital. (Photo: Alex Proimos, Flickr, License)

By Josef Skrdlik

A court in Uganda has charged government minister Mary Goretti Kitutu with four counts related to the theft of 14,500 metal roofing sheets that were supposed to be distributed to the poor but ended up in the hands of the minister’s family members and senior government officials.

The charges against Kitutu include loss of public property, corruption, receiving stolen goods, and conspiracy to defraud, according to the Ugandan National Prosecution Authority. Some of these charges were also brought against Kitutu’s brother and her assistant.

Kitutu and her brother were arrested and are to remain in jail until the next court hearing on Wednesday. Her assistant is reported to be on the run.

Kitutu is the minister for the Karamoja region in northwest Uganda, one of the least developed parts of the country, for which the metal roofing sheets were originally intended.

The scandal broke out in February after some of Kitutu’s relatives were arrested for selling metal roofing sheets with the inscription “Office of the Prime Minister” on them.

A portion of the stolen roofing material was found in the possession of at least 10 senior government officials, including the Vice-President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, and other ministers.

Some ministers defended themselves by saying that they never asked to be given the roofing sheets and did not know how they appeared in their homes, while the Prime Minister indirectly apologized for the affair.

Minister of Planning Amos Lugoloobi, who was found to have used the stolen roofing on his goat shed, recently bowed to public pressure and removed the material from his property.

In his Easter address, Church of Uganda Archbishop Steven Kaziimba Mugalu urged the ministers to return the stolen roofing to the poor.

Kitutu, a renowned environmentalist, entered politics in 2016 after becoming an MP and previously held other cabinet posts.

Based on the Thursday charges, she could face up to 10 years in jail according to Ugandan law.