Three convicts of the infamous Katosi road scam have been granted bail. Joe Ssemugooma, the former director of finance and administration at Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), former Unra regional accountant Wilberforce Ssenjako and businessman Apollo Senkeeto have regained their freedom after a ruling delivered by the Court of Appeal registrar Ayebare Tumwebaze on behalf of Justice Cheborion Barishaki, pending the disposal of an appeal they filed challenging their conviction and sentences.
Two of them; Senkeeto and Ssenjako were bailed on health grounds. Senkeeto presented a medical report from Kampala Chiropractic and Wellness Health Centre showing that he was diagnosed with spinal complications and referred to a specialist in Ghana.
According to the judge, Senkeeto needs time outside the prison, to consult a specialist. He noted that Ssenjako, the other convict, was suffering from diabetes and that his condition could not be managed from within Luzira prison.
The three were convicted in August 2018, for various offences relating to a scam in which the government lost up to Shs 24.7 billion and separately sentenced to jail terms ranging between 5 and 10 years.
They faced trial alongside former Works minister Abraham Byandala, former Unra director Bernardo Kimeze, former Unra legal counsel Marvin Baryaruha and former Housing Finance bank staff Isaac Mugote. The others were however acquitted for absence of substantial evidence to show that they were part of the fraudulent process.
The charges stemmed from an investigation in the illegal award of a contract to EUTAW, a fictitious road construction company from Mississippi that was contracted to construct the Mukono-Katosi-Nyenga road. It was later discovered that the fictitious EUTAW did not have relations to the firm in the US that it used as its parent company.
Senkeeto, who was the country representative of EUTAW, was convicted of theft, uttering false documents and obtaining securities by false pretense. According to the conviction judgment, Senkeeto manipulated the entire procurement process, to present bogus securities and get free money by fronting a company that had no capacity to construct an inch of a road.
Joe Ssemugooma and Wilberforce Senjako were convicted of abuse of office and negligence of duty charges for failing to verify fake performance guarantee documents issued to Unra by Senkeeto and advising the Unra acting executive director to sign the contract with EUTAW saying the performance guarantee documents were authentic.
But the trio appealed their conviction and sentences in the Court of Appeal stating that the lower court erred in law and fact by convicting them without thoroughly substantiating the evidence before court.
Today, justice Barishaki noted that the three were convicted of offences that do not involve personal violence to warrant a denial of bail. They were released on a cash bail of Shs 10 million each, while their sureties were bonded at Shs 20 million.
The court directed Senkeeto to deposit a land title on block 275 plot 1093 in Gombe, while the rest were advised to deposit their passports with court and report to the registrar every first day of the month.