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Prison series: I will never engage in shoddy deals again

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st September 2012 01:59 PM

The financial year had come to an end, but Kayunga district still had funds that had not been utilised and were supposed to be returned to the treasury. So when top officials asked Hurbert Masaba to withdraw it so that it could be delivered in cash instead of a cheque, he saw nothing wrong with it.

Prison series: I will never engage in shoddy deals again

The financial year had come to an end, but Kayunga district still had funds that had not been utilised and were supposed to be returned to the treasury. So when top officials asked Hurbert Masaba to withdraw it so that it could be delivered in cash instead of a cheque, he saw nothing wrong with it.

By Charles Etukuri

The financial year had come to an end, but Kayunga district still had funds that had not been utilised and were supposed to be returned to the treasury. So when top officials asked Hurbert Masaba to withdraw it so that it could be delivered in cash instead of a cheque, he saw nothing wrong with it.

Recalling his journey to prison, Masaba, a former Kayunga Hospital staff is currently serving a five-year sentence in Murchison Bay Prison, Luzira after the initial three-year sentence was enhanced by the High Court.

“Kayunga district had just started and I was sent there among the pioneer staff from its mother district, Mukono. I was attached to Kayunga hospital and the districts medical department. I was the hospital accountant and the district medical department accountant.

“Towards the end of 1999, my bosses approached me with a proposal. Since the financial year was coming to an end and the district had not spent all the money that had been allocated to it and it was supposed to be returned to the treasury, I was to go and withdraw it so that they could return it in cash form.

When he tried to hesitate, since this was not the established procedure, his colleagues assured him that is was safe to do so. “They promised me a fair share of the money and that they had everything covered. All I had to do was withdraw the money since I was a key signatory to the district accounts. 

“The money, which amounted to sh48m, was withdrawn by me from the district accounts and I passed it over to my boss the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and the then Chief Finance Officer (CFO). Two days later, they brought me a receipt allegedly from the Finance ministry acknowledging receipt of the money,” Mukasa narrates.

So when the Auditor General’s office audited the district accounts, it was discovered that the receipt had been forged and that the money had never reached the finance offices.

The three were arrested and arraigned before the courts of law and charged with abuse of office and causing financial loss.

“We were three — the CAO, CFO and me. We were first convicted in the Chief Magistrates Court in Mukono district and were given three-year sentences.” 

Thinking that there was a miscarriage of justice and that the trial magistrate could have erred since he was a mere employee who was heeding the instructions from his bosses, Masaba appealed to the High Court. 

“I applied for bail and appealed to the High Court. But to my surprise, instead of the High Court confirming the magistrate’s ruling or quashing it, the trial judge enhanced the sentence to five years for all of us.”

In November 2010, Masaba started serving his sentence. The one question that has forever remained etched in his mind was why the trial judge enhanced the sentence.

“When I appealed, I was crying that the three years were too much and now here I am serving an additional two years,” he says.

His other friends appealed and are currently out on bail. “I had the chance of going out on bail, pending an appeal since it was my constitutional right, but then I decided to serve my sentence. Our case had dragged on for so long right from 2001 and I wanted to put the past where it belongs and move on. Officially, I am supposed to leave this place in December 2013.”

Prior to being imprisoned, Masaba had been told that prison was hell on earth. “There were all sorts of scary tales about prison life. There were claims that once you came in here, you were half dead.”

However, his view changed when he started serving his sentence, though he admits to missing his family and the freedom to party till late. “But then, there are positive experiences I have learnt while serving my sentence. If I got a second chance and regained my freedom, I will never rush for tempting short cut deals again. I will be more careful and always think twice.

Excitement and desire to get rich will never push me into committing myself in dubious deals again,” he says.
Masaba’s journey in prison has been a smooth one because of the trust and commitment prison authorities saw in him. 

“When I reached here, I was appointed ward leader after six months. I was elected because of my previous experience as an administrator. I worked as a ward leader from March last year to February this year and I was appointed a block leader.”

As a block leader, Masaba is also in charge of inmates patients, a task he coordinates well with the prison medical team. “I am in charge of the hospital inmates, when patients need assistance, they go through me because as a block leader, I am also their spokesperson.”he says.

Lessons from prison
As part of his daily routine, Masaba has to go through the referrals to monitor the condition of the patients and based on his assessment and after consultation, determines who goes to Mulago for specialised treatment.

At times, he accompanies them and it is common to see him move around in Mulago Hospital unescorted. One would think he has been tempted to escape. “I can’t escape. I want to clear this case and move on. It has really  tormented me.”

Masaba says his prison time has been of great value to him and that  he is totally changed. “When I was outside, I was so careless and whenever I would leave work, my first place of call were the local bars, where I was a patron. I would drink like a fish.It was only when I was brought here that I took time to reflect on my life and realised the true value of freedom. I have had time to reflect on my personal life and I am a new creation now,” he says. 

 

Prison series: I will never engage in shoddy deals again

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