Minister's cheque bounces in ID scandal

PRIME Minister Apolo Nsibambi has directed Finance Minister Ezra Suruma to take over supervision of the botched up...

Monday October 1 2007



PRIME Minister Apolo Nsibambi has directed Finance Minister Ezra Suruma to take over supervision of the botched up national Identity Card tender. This follows a series of scandals that have dogged the project since it was conceived and have prevented its take off.

In the latest scandal from the project, the Minister of State for Finance (Planning) Mr Isaac Musumba issued a personal cheque for travel to the bidder verification team and it has bounced.

In an unprecedented move, the state minister personally involved himself in funding the travel of the team assigned to carry out site visits for the three companies pre-qualified for the award of the now controversial tender.

Sources told Daily Monitor that the allegations of Musumba’s personal involvement in the controversial tender, which conduct is against the guidelines of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), the body that regulates procurement in government, have been brought to the attention of the Prime Minister.

Nsibambi told Daily Monitor yesterday that he had instructed the substantive minister of Finance, Dr Ezra Suruma to "handle all the problems arising" out of the controversial tender.

Musumba on January 6 issued to Uganda Travel Bureau (UTB) a personal cheque of Shs 28,700,000, as partial payment for the Shs 50m travel bill for the 11-man team, which visited projects of the three pre-qualified companies Face Technologies, Super Com and Contec Global in Botswana, Zanzibar and Nigeria respectively.

Musumba however then landed into more trouble when the Orient Bank cheque, bounced days after it was banked in Stanbic Bank Corporate Branch on January 9, drawing furious reaction from UTB, who wrote through their lawyers, Tumusiime, Kabega & Co. Advocates.

Dr Ham Mukasa -Mulira, led the evaluation team, which visited Nigeria, Botswana and Zanzibar in November to evaluate the three companies’technical, financial and practical experience.

Others on the team were Dhizaala Moses (NPA), Andrew Kalyango (ESO), Ochieng George (ISO), Ms Pearl Mutibwa (Internal Affairs), Ojok Ogwal (UNBS).

Daily Monitor has learnt that the Prime Minister has already been briefed in his own separate inquiries that the "site visits were made due to the insistence of Musumba, - although this was not embodied and part of the tender document-Request for Proposal" and that "despite the tight budget; he (Musumba) personally got involved in ensuring the availability of the funds for the visits".

Nsibambi, whose office coordinates all government projects yesterday declined to give an elaborate comment about the matter and the conduct of minister Musumba in particular.

"I have asked the substantive minister to handle the problems. He is a capable minister," Nsibambi told Daily Monitor by telephone.

Dr Suruma could not be reached for a comment on Thursday. Musumba has not been available for a comment for the last three days.

Despite efforts by Daily Monitor to contact him, the minister did not answer his calls, nor did he return the newspaper’s calls despite SMS reminders.

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