Over Shs 24 billion meant for the construction of Isimba dam bridge was swindled by officials in the ministry of Energy, speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga has revealed.
Kadaga told MPs today that despite forwarding the names of the 'eaters' of the Shs 24 billion to President Yoweri Museveni in March this year, no response or action has come from the Office of the President.
Commissioned on March 21, 2019, the 183MW Isimba hydropower project is located 4km downstream of Simba falls on the R.Nile, approximately 50km downstream of the source of the Nile. The project steering committee chairperson, Eng Badru Kiggundu, says China Water and Electrical Company Ltd was expected to construct a bridge across R.Nile that would link Kayunga and Kamuli districts.
The bridge was meant to run from Kayunga to Kuva island and another from Kuva island to the Kamuli side. However, to date, the bridge has never been constructed although the dam was completed.
"By the way, at some stage, Shs 24bn had been chewed, Shs 24bn for that bridge had been eaten. 24! Hon members, I have been following that matter for several months, the money was eaten in the ministry of Energy, Shs 24bn...I have written to the president. I gave him the names of the 'eaters'. I have been waiting since March. I have not seen any action." said Kadaga.
Isimba dam was constructed at a whopping $568 million (about Shs 2 trillion) per cent with more than 85 per cent coming as a loan from China’s Exim Bank. While reacting to the debate on a matter of national importance raised by James Waluswaka, the Bunyole West MP, Kadaga said the failure to construct the bridge on Isimba dam and disappearance of the money could cost Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party MPs votes.
"The contract for the Isimba dam was supposed to have a bridge to connect Kamuli and Kayunga. I think either what they call mafias have taken the money, the dam was commissioned the bridge is not there. Now the issue I'm raising madam speaker when we go to Kamuli and Kayunga. We have relatives there. Villagers ask us. I want the ministry of Energy and Works to explain why the bridge has not been constructed as per the plan." Waluswaka said.
However, the Works and Transport minister Monica Ntege Azuba told the house that the funds earmarked for the bridge are under the Energy and Works ministries, saying the money can only be released when the design is completed. She confirmed that the contractor was meant to build a bridge; adding that a new design is being drawn and will be funded.
"Yes it is true the bridge was supposed to be done at that point, and when we came to the realisation when the dam was finished, we brought it up to the ministry of Energy. So the ministry of Energy has asked UNRA [Uganda National Roads Authority] to do the design and they will come up with the findings so that it will still be under Energy. I request ministry of Energy to expand further." Azuba said.
MPs wondered why a new design is now being drafted for the bridge long after the dam was even completed and commissioned, yet the initial design of the dam included a bridge. David Guma Gumisiriza, the Ibanda North MP, said it is a serious issue for the speaker to say the money earmarked for the bridge was swindled. He said parliament cannot just ignore such issues, saying the implicated persons should be summoned.
"The statement from the speaker of parliament of Uganda to say money is stolen for a project that is supposed to connect, ease transport in this country is such a serious matter. I would request parliament to summon in Irene Muloni and all the concerned people and twelve into the issue in this very matter. The other day money for Katosi road disappeared and some people who allegedly shared the money are in this house. Really how can we have a country like that?" Gumisiriza said.
Government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa requested to present the matter formally to cabinet given its gravity.
"You said money was eaten and you repeated it, and I whispered to Hon Adolf [Mwesige] and said this is serious. The speaker is telling us that she has information that money was eaten. And how can we leave this statement hanging? I would like to propose madam speaker that I table this concern from you and parliament in cabinet on Monday and the person who shares cabinet is none other than the president because you have mentioned in your statement that you informed the president." said Nankabirwa.
Asuman Basalirwa, the Bugiri Municipality MP said if there is evidence that money was stolen, cabinet cannot do anything about it other than arraigning those implicated before the Anti-corruption court.
Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South MP proposed that parliament institutes a committee to investigate the matter instead of handing it back to Government, which is accused. Jacob Oboth Oboth, the West Budama MP, said a whistleblower gave parliament information on the money swindled because they know the capacity of the house. Kadaga promised to make a ruling on the matter on Thursday.