Monday August 25 2014

Nasasira to Byandala: Apologise or I sue you

MPs inspect the Mukono-Katosi road construction works

MPs inspect the Mukono-Katosi road construction works recently. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY  


Information Communication Technology minister John Nasasira has demanded his colleague Abraham Byandala to produce evidence linking him to the controversial award of the Shs165 billion contract for the construction of the Mukono-Katosi road to an American firm or publicly retract the statements.

Mr Nasasira, who was in 2011 dropped from the Works and Transport portfolio currently held by Mr Byandala, said he was “extremely concerned” and is “consulting” with his legal advisers to take appropriate action in case his colleague fails on the options given.

“I demand that you produce evidence to substantiate your above two allegations or publicly retract them and apologise to me,” Mr Nasasira wrote in an August 22 letter.

The contract to upgrade the road was purported to have been awarded to US-based Eutaw Construction Company, but when a Shs24.7 billion advance payment was made to the firm, the Finance ministry raised a red flag over the deal warning that it had fraudulently acquired it. Eutaw officials have since denied knowledge of this deal which triggered an inquiry.

The controversy deepened when last week, Mr Byandala, in an interview with The Observer newspaper, accused Mr Nasasira and minister for Presidency Frank Tumwebaze of working to oust him and quietly accelerating the uproar in the media.

“They want me out of office,” Mr Byandala is quoted as saying in the interview.

He claimed that Mr Nasasira, then as Works minister, visited Eutaw’s headquarters in the US after the company was evaluated as the best bidder.

However, Mr Nasasira in his statement said as a minister and in accordance with the PPDA Act, he was not directly involved in the tender processes.

“You took over the ministry while negotiations were continuing. I did not participate in your decisions and you should stop dragging my name into this (roads project saga),” Mr Nasasira wrote.

Mr Byandala was not available for comment yesterday as his known phone numbers went unanswered.

His political assistant, Mr Ismail Ssenyonga, however, told Daily Monitor that the minister was yet to receive Mr Nasasira’s missive.
“We shall respond when we get it. In the meantime, it is important to note that the issues around the Mukono-Katosi Road are under investigation by the Inspector General of Government and the police. Let us give these agencies time to do their work and we shall see their findings,” he said.

to be summoned
Meanwhile, Information Minister Rosemary Namayanja was quoted at the weekend saying ministers Tumwebaze, Nasasira and Byandala are due to appear before a cabinet disciplinary hearing chaired by Premier Amama Mbabazi over taking their spat into the public.

Minister Nasasira’s statement on Mukono-Katosi road saga
I have since mid this month followed your comments and responses on how the contractor for the Mukono-Kyetume - Katosi was procured. The procurement of this contractor is now under investigation by Police, Inspector General of Government and even the Parliamentary Committee of Infrastructure. It is now referred to by the some sections of media as “Road Fraud” “Road Scum” etc etc.

Your comments and responses were made at a workshop, before the Parliamentary committee of Infrastructure and in an interview with The Observer newspaper which was published on Wednesday, 20th August 2014 in their Vol. 9 Issue: 100. Your comments and responses were published in the print media, broadcasted by many radio stations and telecasted by many TV stations. They have been on Social Media as well.

I am extremely concerned at the false allegations you made about and against me in your comments and responses I refer to above.

Ordinarily, I would ignore such falsehoods depending on the source and who published it. However in your case, I believe that if we are ideologically clear and disciplined members of the same Cabinet, we would not make such false, odious and defamatory statements against each other (particularly in the press). I am therefore left with no choice except to write to you this open letter in response to your statements which are tending to tarnish my name and my reputation.
Specifically you made the following two false allegations:

1) The first false allegation is that when M/s Eutaw (the American Company) was evaluated as the best bidder in February 2011 and UNRA started contract negotiation with them, I, John Nasasira who was then the Minister of Works and Transport, visited their headquarters in USA. In one of your statements you claimed that I had gone on a “Due Diligence” visit.

Your statement implies that my visit to USA would have taken place between February 2011 (when the bid evaluation was approved) and 12th May 2011 (when the term of Cabinet ended and my tenure as Minister of Works and Transport also ended).

First, what would be the reason for a minister to go and meet officials (at their headquarters) of a contractor that is negotiating a contract with his/her ministry? Secondly, Hon. Byandala, do you really understand what your false statement implies? Your statement is false because I never went to meet any officials of Eutaw in USA or anywhere.

As a matter of fact by the time my tenure as Minister of Works and Transport ended I had never met and I do not know any official of Eutaw. Furthermore, I never at all travelled to the USA during that period as you allege.

2) Your second false allegation is that I am “ the major sponsor” of a media campaign to tarnish your name so that you are removed from the Ministry of Works and Transport and I am appointed as the Minister of Works and Transport again.

Hon Byandala, you surely must know the authority that appoints ministers, reshuffles them or drops them. Throughout my years as a minister I have been deployed (by the Appointing Authority) in several ministries first as a Deputy Minister, Minister of State and later as a Cabinet Minister.

To date I have worked with over 15 colleagues in those ministries I was deployed in and collectively with over 60 other colleagues in their ministries. Nobody has ever accused me of sponsoring a campaign to tarnish his/her name because that is not my method of work. You are the first one.

I demand that you produce evidence to substantiate your above two allegations or publicly retract them and apologise to me. In the meantime I am consulting my legal advisors on the appropriate action to take should you fail to do so.

Let me as I conclude comment on the impression you have tried to create that the contractor (Eutaw) who on 15/11/2013,signed the contract for upgrading the Mukono-Kyetume-Katosi road was the one who was prequalified and evaluated before you became the minister and therefore during the time I was the minister of Works and Transport.
This is not true when you follow the procurement process from the advertisement inviting prequalification in April 2010 to the time (November 2013) when you directed the Ag. Executive Director of UNRA to immediately sign the contract while the Due diligence is carried out.

You very well know that by the time my tenure as Minister of Works and Transport ended on 12th May 2011, UNRA had started contract negotiations with Ms Eutaw Construction (who had been approved as the best evaluated bidder) in April 2011.

Obviously as a minister and in accordance with the PPDA Act, I was not directly involved in the tender processes (advertising, prequalification, evaluation etc).

You took over the ministry in June 2011 while negotiations were continuing and I have been informed that due to lack of money they were halted in November 2011 and UNRA internally cancelled the procurement (tender) in May 2012.

You have yourself stated that the tender was reactivated in 2013 when funds were provided in Financial Year 2013/14. You have also stated that before a contract was signed, UNRA “received an email from a Whistle-blower saying that those people who are going to sign are not genuine”. You even referred to this matter in your letter of 14th November 2013 which I would like to quote.

“I am aware that you are carrying out Due Diligence on the above company to ascertain and verify whether indeed the Company that bidded and was awarded this contract is the one going to sign it.
I am advised that if it is found that the people currently in Kampala are not really bonafide directors/employees of the company as they are representing you, the contract can be repudiated.

Due to the need to implement the project very urgently, I am directing you to immediately sign the contract while the Due Diligence is carried out by your technical team. Please treat this matter as urgent.”

Indeed the contract was signed the following day on 15th November 2013.

Hon Byandala, I am sure you made a conscious decision to direct UNRA to sign the contract before due diligence was completed. You should

therefore take full responsibility for your decisions. This is a standard practice and indeed what leadership demands. I did not participate in your decisions and you should stop dragging my name into this Mukono - Kyetume - Katosi project saga.
Yours sincerely,
John Nasasira
Minister of ICT