The Court of Appeal in Kampala has sent former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, John Kashaka to Luzira to serve his 10-year sentence after his appeal against the same was quashed on Monday afternoon.
Kashaka together with five others were in 2014 sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the Anti-Corruption Court for their roles in the botched purchase of 70,000 bicycles for Local Council one chairpersons that caused government a financial loss of shs4.2 billion.
They had run to the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision but they were also released on bail pending the determination of their case.
On Monday, three justices of the court including Elizabeth Musoke, Hellen Obura and Christopher Madrama ruled that the lower court never erred in sentencing Kashaka to 10 years imprisonment.
“By unanimous decision, the 1st (Kashaka) and 6th(Adam Luma) appellant’s appeals against conviction and sentence are dismissed,” the judges said.
The justices ruled that they have found no reason to tamper with the findings of the trial court which justified its sentence on grounds that corruption thrives in an environment where the risk of punishment is low and thus upheld the sentence.
Kashaka was jointly convicted with Henry Bamutura (former principal accountant); Robert Mwebaze (former principal procurement officer); Sam Emorutu Erongot (former assistant commissioner for policy and planning); Timothy Musherure (former consultant) and Adam Alum (member of evaluation committee) but Mwebaze has since died.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire who handled the case in the lower court had convicted Kashaka and banned him from working in a public office for 10 years after serving his prison sentence and ordered him to refund a sixth of the Shs4.2 billion lost in the botched procurement deal.
The justices of the Court of Appeal on Monday upheld the orders saying that Kashaka, Bamutura, Emorut and Aluma should jointly and in equal proportions pay the government compensation to a tune of $1.7 million which is equivalent to six billion shillings.
The judges however allowed Musherure’s appeal and he was asked to walk home scot-free.
In her judgement in 2014, Justice Bamugemereire convicted Kashaka for going ahead with the deal despite a letter from Bank of Uganda warning of discrepancies and in the end, government lost huge sums of money when the deal never materialized.
The judge said Kashaka’s act exposed government money to fraudsters who went ahead and embezzled it.
“He (Kashaka) ought to have exercised a high level of diligence in managing public funds and should have known that signing the deal with Amani Industrial Tools Limited was going to cause financial loss to government,” she noted.
Bamugemereire further said Bamutura who was the principal accountant was wrong to sign the contract with the Indian company on behalf of government yet he was aware that everything in the contract was fake.
“It is a sad tale of government officials opening government coffers to fraudsters. Due care must have been taken before signing the contract.”
According to the judge, Amani Industrial Tools Limited from India had no financial muscle to operate the 70000 bicycle deal because it was only a few days from its formation and therefore could not handle such a big deal.
Bamugemereire further noted that it must have been intended for personal gain for the award of the contract to what she termed as fraudsters adding that the Indian company was not part of the 14 that had tendered in their bids for the supply of bicycles.
The defence lawyers in their submission during hearing of the case said that Amani Impex had been able to deliver in a contract of 65000 bicycles to which the judge disputed and explained that it was another Indian company AITEL that was involved in that deal and not Amani Impex .
Bamugemereire , however, said that the said company was not among the successful bidders as it was not anywhere on the list as said by the interdicted public servants.
“It wasn’t anywhere on the list of 14 companies and in fact, it was incorporated on September 14, 2010, yet bidding had ended by September 9 2010. The contracts committee was defrauded and awarded the contract to this company which had just been formed a few weeks back and had no experience to handle contracts of this magnitude.”
“It was an act of whitewashing pausing as work well done and the person who did it well knew that it was intended to defraud government and indeed did it,” the judge noted.