Saturday August 23 2014

Byandala, the mafia story is no longer a good sale

By Asuman Bisiika

The tall and short of it is that the Ministry of Works and Transport is no longer at ease; the good thing, however, is that things have not (yet) fallen apart.

Mr Abraham Byandala, the Minster for Works and Transport, is in the eye of a storm over some breech or other in a procurement process of a road construction contract.

John Byabagambi, Byandala’s junior colleague at the ministry headquarters, is also the subject of many questions over a doggy procurement process of the construction of a railway line.

Byabagambi has some hot yam on his hands. He cancelled what appears like a Memorandum of Understanding with a company that was supposed to be contracted to construct a standard gauge railway line. Pleas that what he cancelled was a mere MoU and not a contract are falling on deaf ears.

Procurement regulations in this country are fairly clear. The trouble, however, is that Mr Byandala’s attempt to defend himself is very haphazard. In what I will describe as self-immolation (I think inadvertently), Mr Byandala has decided to scapegoat by claiming that some of his Cabinet colleagues are behind his woes.

What Byandala didn’t appreciate is that the story of mafias in government is no longer a hot sale; in fact, the public would portray you as a cry baby if the only defence you put up is that the mafia are after you.

Byandala then commits a very cardinal mistake: dragging the name of the President in a scandalous situation. The principle in government service is simple: under whatever circumstances, the name of the boss should not be deliberately brought into unexplainable circumstances.

If you want to build a case, saying that it was an order from above does not add any value to your argument; neither does it attract any sympathy from the public in today’s Uganda.

Mentioning names of public figures as the people after his job was unnecessary; neither did they build a case for his failure to supervise the roads agency.

In fact, in the process of explaining his direct involvement in the procurement process, he has ended up usurping the work of the UNRA board of directors.

And the irony of ironies, his testimony is clearly contradicting the position of UNRA on the same issue; which is that there is no major problem on the contract and that the process of the road construction is ongoing.

Under normal circumstances, Byandala should have left the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to do the talking on this matter. The parameters on which the public assesses UNRA are technical and quite different from those the public assesses a political leader like Byandala.

But some things need to be put into perspective. Before this, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had all of a sudden shut down locally registered airlines triggering off a ping-pong of accusations and counter accusation between the local airlines and CAA.

Needless to say, the eerie silence from ministry headquarters was very roaring.
Water transport is almost nonexistent save for island districts in Lake Victoria.

Up to now, there is no report on an accident on Lake Albert that caused more than 100 deaths of Congolese refugees. Because the dead were foreigners, the media and civil society didn’t challenge the regulatory regime and the ministry responsible for transport.

Byandala came to ministry headquarters with perception issues from his former office as the city engineer of Kampala. Any slight anomaly associated with him at ministry headquarters would trigger off perception red lights.

So, Byandala’s claim that some mafias are after him could be dismissed as mere acts of an attempted procurement of public sympathy. Trouble is that the mafia story is no longer a good sale.

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East Africa Flagpost.