Ugandan senior officer charged for paying a “ghost” air force pilot for 11 years

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A senior officer in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and his wife who also is an employee of the Ministry of Defence, have been charged over alleged recruitment and maintenance of a ghost pilot on the army’s payroll for more than 11 years, local media Daily Monitor reports.

The non-existent pilot has been paid more than 2 billion Ugandan shillings (over $500,000) in salaries since 2005 for being on the Ugandan army payroll.

A senior military officer and two civilian defense ministry staff have been charged with the crime on Friday while over 16 military and civilian officials implicated in the crime are at large, this according to the report.

Until June 2016 when the scam was detected after a probe, it was determined that Russian air force pilot, Valerie Detrick who was contracted to work as a training instructor for Mi-17 and Mi-24 military helicopter pilots was non-existent.

The accused, Major Kapalaga Lubega, his wife Evas Lubega Twinomujuni and colleague at the ministry Carolyn Kyakabale were arraigned before the General Court Martial in Makindye on Friday where they were charged and remanded.

The non-existent pilot was entered into a two-year renewable contract in 2005 and paid $4,306 per month through a local bank account.

According to the report, the contract was renewed in 2008 and salary increased to $5,350 per month and maintained through three contract renewals till 2015 when it was reduced to $5,150.

The loss came to light in June 2016 after a probe launched by the former Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Katumba Wamala spotted the anomaly.

The report implicated more than 16 military and civilian officials of the Ministry of Defence in the scam.

They denied the charges, which upon conviction attract prison sentences of up to seven years.

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