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Prison series: You can easily find yourself in prison

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th September 2012 02:49 PM

I have discovered that many great men in the world have passed through prison. It is an opportunity for one to look back and reflect on all the shortcomings you have gone through and make changes so that when you get outside you become a responsible citizen

Prison series: You can easily find yourself in prison

I have discovered that many great men in the world have passed through prison. It is an opportunity for one to look back and reflect on all the shortcomings you have gone through and make changes so that when you get outside you become a responsible citizen

One year after the Anti-Corruption Court convicted him to a four-year sentence for abuse of office, former chief administrative officer, Andrew Chelangat, talked to Charles Etukuri on his prison experience

When former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Oyam district, Andrew Chelangat, diverted funds meant for road construction from the main account to the other council accounts, he never knew it would land him in prison.  

 “On that day the district was in a financial crisis. We had so many pressing council matters to handle. We had no funds and when I checked with one of our accounts, there was money we had received as a grant. My chief financial officer and I decided to divert some of these funds to other accounts to enable the council activities run smoothly,” Chelangat said.

“The funds were meant for roads and this was a conditional grant that was not meant to be diverted. The roads in the district were, therefore, not done. Investigations were carried out and we were charged in the Anti-Corruption Court.”

 “When we were taken to court, we did not waste court’s time and pleaded guilty to the charges because there was overwhelming evidence against us. We were told that when you quickly plead guilty and do not waste time, the judge could be lenient while sentencing you, but that was not the case with us. On November 7, 2011 we were sentenced to four years.”

Life in Prison
For Chelangat, prison life has been a big challenge to him. He is learning how to shed off the big man status he enjoyed as a free man. 

For a man who was in charge of a district and controlling billions of shillings, the changed fortunes have seen him re-adjust his life.

“In prison life is not easy. You need endurance. Phones are not allowed, you are not allowed to handle money though we have provisions to make calls through the welfare department and the property department handles issues of money on behalf of the prisoner.”

Chelangat admits to having had a negative attitude towards prisoners. His views only changed after he was imprisoned. 
“This was my first time in prison. I had a negative perception about prisoners. I regarded them as rejects of society. But then there are certain things I have learnt from here which I wouldn’t have been able to learn had I been outside.”

Opportunity
After being sentenced, Chelangat opted to join the school party and is one of the inmate teachers. 
“I opted to go to the school party, where I have been able to access so many books. I get a lot of information on current events and things I never had an opportunity to learn in the free world.”

He has also taken time to reflect on himself and discovered that in anything one does, you need to put God first. 
“I am also born again and I have had time to concentrate on studying the Bible and reflecting more on my life.

I have discovered that many great men in the world have passed through prison. It is not a suffering but an opportunity for one to look back and reflect on all the shortcomings you have gone through and make changes so that when you get outside you become a responsible citizen.”

For a man who had worked in the public service for 14 years and had his career cut short after being sentenced, life will never be the same again when he leaves prison. 

“When I leave prison I want to be self-employed. I have started strategising,” he says.  He does not want to discuss what he will engage in for now, maintaining that he is still working out the details of the project he will undertake.

The 44-year-old father of four and a graduate of social sciences says he misses his family so much. 
“I have four children and they all live in Kapchorwa. This has been a difficult period for them, but I am happy that they have been very supportive.”

Message to the public
Always be careful in whatever things you do and learn that free things are not good.
 “Whatever you are doing learn to eat from your sweat. Free things are not good because when you go for free things you get lured into stealing and cheating.”

One thing that pains him is the casual manner in which government employees handle their work. 
He says if the law is applied to its fullest, several ignorant civil servants could find themselves in jail.

“We do not know the law and people are breaking the law every time. If there is somebody to pin you, you can easily find yourself in prison. It was only when I came here and started reading the books that I realised that there are so many decisions that I took regarding my work that could have landed me in jail.”

“I have been taking things lightly. When I diverted funds, I thought I was making the district run smoothly and yet I should not have done that. I have learnt to strictly follow the rules of the game and my prison sentence has taught me this.”

Prison series: You can easily find yourself in prison

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