Uganda Police is yet to pay Uganda Telecom (UTL) at least Shs 3.1 billion for services offered during the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
Despite receiving the money in the 2018/2019 financial year budget, police still failed to clear the arrears due to absence of a signed contract. The money is part of the Shs 5.7 billion the force returned to the consolidated fund at the end of the 2018/2019 financial year.
Shs 2.1 billion was meant for wages, gratuity and pension and rent and property rates while the remaining Shs 3.1 billion was for the UTL arrears. This is part of the total Shs 749.1bn allocated to the force for its expenditure.
According to the report of the accountant general, the force returned the money to the treasury due to an incomplete verification process on some personnel who could have retired, missed validation, deserted or died.
Police spokesman, Fred Enanga, says the money for the UTL arrears was returned because police failed to pay the telecom for renting some of its towers by end of the financial year. The telephone arrears date back to the 2007 CHOGM when police and sister agencies including the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Uganda People's Defense Forces rented some UTL towers and sites for security and communication purposes.
Government procured a Tetra walkie talkies and used UTL towers to facilitate the communication systems for CHOGM. Officials from Information, Communication and Technology ministry, police and UTL were at the forefront of the deal.
The ministry made the procurement while police was the main consumer of the services and UTL were the service providers. However, 12 years after CHOGM, Enanga says police which was the main user of the UTL towers has never paid the tower rent money to UTL.
When UTL was placed under receivership in May 2017 under the leadership of the administrator general, Twebaze Bemanya, the issue of the rent arrears came up. The parties involved commenced discussions on how to clear the arrears.
Reliable sources told URN that officials from the ICT led by the permanent secretary, Vincent Waiswa Bagiire, then inspector general of police, Gen Kale Kayihura and UTL management commenced talks in 2017 and set up a technical team comprising mainly UTL and police officials to carry out a joint site audit.
In April, the committee released its joint site audit report, which concluded that basing on its calculations on the seven UTL sites police rented between 2009 and March 2019, the force should pay $818,920 (approximately Shs 3 billion).
Enanga says that since the police had an idea about the outstanding arrears, it provided for Shs 3.1 billion in the 2018/2019 budget to clear them. However, sources in parliament say that police failed to pay UTL because there was no signed MOU or contract between police, UTL and ICT ministry when the deal was made ahead of CHOGM.
If there was a contract, according to the sources, police is yet to trace for it so as to effect payment.
“This service was procured without a contract,” some sources told URN on condition of anonymity.
Some cited a Memorandum of Understanding between the three parties, in which police agreed to pay monthly rates of $1,000 for UTL tower sites with power and $600 for tower sites without power.
URN has seen a June 24, 2019 letter in which, the undersecretary in charge of finance in police, Rogers Muhirwa wrote to the UTL administrator Bemanya on "settlement of outstanding rental charges owed to Uganda Telecom (UTL) in respect of the Government Tetra Communication System."
"Although the technical report submitted a bill to a tune of $818,920 as due from Uganda Police Force, to Uganda Telecom Limited for the period July 2009 to April 2019, there is still no contract or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by Solicitor General for the transaction."
Adding that, "This is therefore a request to you to provide a copy of earlier singed [sic] contract/ MOU that back up the mentioned bills and consequently the claim in question, to enable the budgeting requisition and processing of the requisite funds."
Some sources are optimistic that the arrears will be cleared in the 2019/2020 financial year as long as all the parties involved sign a contract that is approved by the Solicitor General.
"The only challenge is that the officials who were involved in this matter ahead of CHOGM 2007 are no longer in the respective offices," for instance, the minister of ICT at the time was Ham Mulira, and minister of Security, Amama Mbabazi, inspector general of police was Gen. Kale Kayihura,” said the source.
The procurement for the Tetra communication walkie talkies system was queried by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chaired by Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the Budadiri West member of parliament. PAC faulted the parties involved for flouting procurement rules.
However, they were exonerated by the acting inspector general of government, Raphael Baku, saying there was no loss of public funds in the procurement and that the security systems were ready by the time CHOGM kicked off.