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UNRA on spot over Chinese contracts

Whistleblower reports procurement gaps to Museveni, IGG

Despite management changes at the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), wheeler-dealing is still rife in the procurement of many road projects, a whistleblower has claimed.

In a lengthy document dated April 12, 2017, which is addressed to President Museveni, the Inspectorate of Government and Parliament, the whistleblower lists a number of contentious issues that he wants government oversight agencies to investigate and address.

Yesterday, the spokesperson of the Inspectorate of Government, Munira Ali, confirmed to The Observer that they had received the whistleblower’s report, although no action has been taken yet.

“It is still under review,” she said.

However, the Unra media relations manager, Allan Kyobe Ssempebwa, told The Observer that many of the issues that the whistleblower raises are exaggerated and not true.

According to the whistleblower, Unra has failed to implement the recommendations of the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) contained in two reports for the financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15.

UNRA executive director Allen Kagina (L) at the contract signing of Bumbobi-Lwakhakha road project

Among other issues, the committee discovered that in those two financial years, Unra had awarded contracts before appointing consultants and that the roads authority had wasteful expenditure amounting to Shs 510 million.

Cosase also found that Unra had not utilized funds and that it had paid Shs 12 million to a hotel that is not on the list of pre-qualified service providers.

The committee, in its report released in December 2016, had asked Unra to take action on some of the issues raised and report back within a fortnight. Weeks later, Unra had not done so, which compelled the permanent secretary in ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Keith Muhakanizi, to write to Unra’s accounting officer to explain why this was the case.

“Please note that you will be in breach of section 79 (a) of the Public Finance Management Act if your response is not received one month from the date of this letter,” Muhakanizi wrote in a letter dated January 25, 2017.

Muhakanizi’s letter is attached to the whistleblower’s dossier.

CONTRACT CONTROVERSIES

Other issues raised by the whistleblower relate to the various ongoing road projects in the country. The dossier notes that the procurement process of many of these roads is either flawed or skewed to favour particular firms.

The whistleblower claimed that the deal for the upgrade of the Kigumba-Bulima road was given to China Railway No 5 Engineering Group, despite being among the six companies that parliament’s committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) recommended be blacklisted for unethical behavior. 

“Investigations should focus on what special relationship there is between Unra officials and these Chinese companies which are accorded special and preferential treatment,” the whistleblower says.

Ssempebwa responded that it is not the work of Unra to blacklist companies like Cosase had recommended.

“This one does not lie in our mandate. Everyone knows that blacklisting of companies due to procurement-related matters is the work of PPDA,” Ssempebwa said.

The public relations officer of PPDA, Sylvia Kirabo, told The Observer yesterday that they had received the dossier, as well as the Cosase report which recommended blacklisting of six Chinese firms. Kirabo explained that they are still investigating the issues raised against the firms in the report, and had not yet arrived at a conclusion.

“The process is still ongoing but all I can say at this moment is that no company has been blacklisted,” she said.

Secondly, according to the whistleblower, the 69-kilometre Rukungiri-Kihihi-Ishasha road deal was also shrouded in controversy. Unra says it rejected all the companies that bid for the contract, citing section 75 of the PPDA Act.

According to Ssempebwa, the Unra executive director, Allen Kagina, was forced to cancel the tender process for the Rukungiri-Kihihi-Ishasha road because there was too much interference in the process.

“The executive director took a decision for the good of the project to cancel the process. We believe it was grossly interfered with by players. We are going to undertake a fresh process in liaison with the funder, African Development Bank (ADB),” he said.

However, the whistleblower claims the reasons for the cancellation of the bidding process were not satisfactory, and cost the contractors money.

“Bidding for contracts is an expensive process that contractors go through. It involves borrowing of funds from the banks to get bid securities. Contractors must be treated with respect. Otherwise, Unra will soon render its jobs not worth the effort,” writes the whistleblower.

The third road project, pointed out by the whistleblower is the 55km Hoima-Butiaba-Wanseko road. According to the dossier, bids for the road were opened on January 22, 2016 and the deal was awarded to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) at Shs 398 billion.

According to the whistleblower, this would translate into $2m per kilometre, which is exorbitant. The whistleblower notes that this is way above construction estimates posted on the Unra website, which are at $960,000 per kilometre. Later, after an outcry from some bidders, Unra cancelled the deal, the whistleblower says.

“The IGG should investigate the people who crafted this ignominious evaluation and bring them to book. They should even be interdicted as investigations continue,” notes the dossier.

The whistleblower claims that roads in the oil sub-region of Bunyoro have been restricted to only Chinese firms because of the funding from Exim bank.
Local and other foreign firms, the dossier noted, were left out.

Regarding the issue of Chinese firms winning all the road projects, Ssempebwa said the new administration found many of these contracts ongoing and could not terminate them. Ssempebwa said Unra’s new administration is taking very deliberate steps to turn around the procurement processes at the organisation.

ekiggundu@observer.ug

Comments

+1 #1 Elly 2017-05-03 12:33
The new trend is for PROs to rubbish such reports as lies and then the "we are still investigating claim" comes.

If one cared to find out, no investigations are being dine or were ever done. Disband some of these authorities
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0 #2 buga 2017-05-04 16:11
please UNRA note that COSASE did not ask UNRA to investigate anything , it directed that these companies be BLACKLISTED.

What you are doing now is defying directives as they reflect the will of the people. Actually UNRA is protecting the corrupt.
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