The minister of Health Dr Ruth Aceng and the permanent secretary Dr Diana Atwine have been blocked from accessing the construction site of the proposed International Specialized Hospital in Lubowa.
Parliament early this year, approved a loan guarantee of Shs 1.4 trillion to Finasi/Roko, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the construction of the hospital located in Lubowa, Wakiso district along the Kampala- Entebbe road. However, the project has faced setbacks with the SPV Finasi/ROKO falling apart following the introduction of another player, a Chinese firm, Power China Guizhou Engineering co.Ltd as the civil works contractor, but also allegations that up to $86 million meant for the project is already missing.
The construction site gates were heavily sealed off with a grader and a pickup truck parked exactly at the entrance of the facility, which is fenced with green iron sheets with no inscription of Finasi/Roko SPV as before. Committee chairperson and former minister Syda Bbumba said because taxpayers money is involved, she sees no problem why the MPs and government officials can't be allowed to visit the site.
Earlier, in a letter dated August 2, 2019, and addressed to the deputy speaker of parliament, Keith Muhakanizi the permanent secretary/secretary to the treasury warned MPs and other government officials from visiting the construction site.
“As I mentioned on the phone, the government of Uganda handed over the construction site to the project company (Finasi/Roko Construction SPV Limited). The site is no longer in the hands of government and government officials cannot, therefore, move on and off the site at will.” Muhakanizi wrote in the letter.
“Secondly, as guided by the deputy attorney general when he appeared before the committee on National Economy on 1st August 2019, issues relating to the construction site at Lubowa are the subject of pending litigation. Accordingly, government officials cannot be deliberating let alone entering upon the very site which is the subject of the pending litigations.” Muhakanizi's letter added.
When contacted, Roko said they were not behind the blocking the government officials from the site, saying it was Finasi. Roko managing director Mark Koehler said the SPV indicates that no other companies other than Finasi, Roko or Finasi/Roko and its affiliates can be subcontracted work in the hospital of more than 15 per cent, according to the contract.
Minister Aceng downplayed today's events, saying the mere fact that the contractor was on site it, means that work is progressing and, that is what government is interested in. However, Andrew Baryayanga, Kabale Municipality MP said there indeed a very big problem with the project.
"I think there is a very big thing we’re missing. We want to also see the designs because we have been told even the designs have been changed. We also want to know who is the contractor because Roko as the contractor is not seen on site. Instead, it is the Chinese on-site." said Baryayanga.
"We were cleared by ministry of Health. The minister is here. If the minister herself cannot access the site, she is the owner of the project. If they can refuse the owners of the project from accessing the site…what type of works are they doing for us? It is very absurd." he added.
Appearing before the National Economy Committee last week, the deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana told MPs that as far as government is concerned, that is a fight that will be resolved, and so far it has not affected the project works. He also says the court battles will not affect the implementation of the works, as the ministries of Finance and Health are keeping a keen eye on the project.
According to Rukutana, because Finasi has 95 per cent shares in the special purpose vehicle (SPV), and Roko has only 5 per cent, it is acceptable in law for Finasi to contract another company. He says the SPV is an independent company different from the Roko and Finasi international FZC and what government wants is for the construction to continue.
"Implementation of the project agreement is going on so well. Actually, as I told the committee, the information I have is, implementation is ahead of schedule. Even if we know that there are disagreements, those agreements have not affected the execution of works as per the agreement. So it is not yet of concern to us..." said Rukutana.