Board suspends UNRA managers

Saturday August 30 2014

MPs drive on the Mukono-Katosi road last week.

MPs drive on the Mukono-Katosi road last week. They had visited the road to ascertain if construction had commenced. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE 

By PAUL TAJUBA & FREDERIC MUSISI

KAMPALA.
The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) Board has suspended four top officials following the controversy surrounding the tender for the construction of the 74km Mukono-Katosi road.

The UNRA board, chaired by Ms Angella Kiryabwire, decided to suspend acting executive director Ssebugga Kimeze, the director of Finance Mr Joe Semugoomu, the director of planning Eng. David Luyimbazi, and Legal Counsel Mr Marvin Baryaruha, until investigations into the award of the tender are concluded.
Ms Kiryabwire on Friday morning said she was still chairing the board meeting that was sitting for the second day running and could not give a substantial comment about the latest developments.
She reffered this newspaper to UNRA director of communications Mr Dan Alinange.

Mr Alinange confirmed the development. “Yes it is true but we have issued a press statement to the media,” he said.
A statement issued by the UNRA board chair Friday afternoon read: “To ensure the vital role UNRA’s roads programme plays in the development of the national economy continues uninterrupted and that investigations are not interfered with in anyway, the UNRA board has decided to suspend some senior staff involved to pave way for proper investigations.”

The statement did not named the suspended officers.
Sources in the board meeting told Saturday Monitor that the board had appointed Eng James Okiror, the UNRA director of operations as acting executive director. All the suspended officials were asked to hand over office and leave on Friday.
This follows a directive by the Inspector General of Government, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, to the UNRA board chair to act on the said officers.

“I told them [UNRA board] to suspend them until we conclude the investigations or until we see its okay for them to get back to office,” Justice Mulyagonja told Saturday Monitor.
Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi a month ago wrote to the IGG asking her to investigate reports that the performance guarantee by Eutaw had failed and that the money deposited in Housing Finance Bank had all been withdrawn.
The police and the Inspector General of Government are investigating corruption allegations and whether the American construction company Eutaw that won the tender, exists. The police is also investigating circumstances under which Shs24.7b, was advanced to the company after the bank guarantee had been withdrawn.

The Police Special Investigations Unit has since questioned several officials, including Mr Semugoomu, and the UNRA accountant Wilberforce Senjako in connection to the payment. Others questioned include Mr Luyimbazi, and Mr Apolo Ssenkeeto, who claims to be the representative of Eutaw Construction Company in Uganda.
The police has also questioned officials of Housing Finance Bank and insurers - Statewide Insurance Company (SWICO) and UAP insurance company over the issuance of bonds that were used to get the Shs24.7 billion. But UAP insurance claimed that they discovered irregularities and cancelled the bond.

The board last week asked the top managers to explain why Eutaw was paid Shs24.7 billion even before the UNRA officials carried out due diligence, which has led to financial loss. The board also wants officials to explain why the money was released after the bank guarantee issued by Housing Finance Bank had been withdrawn.
According to internal UNRA communications, Mr Baryaruha had in a December 4 memo to then acting Executive Director Eng Luyimbazi, asked to travel with Mr Kirumunda to the US to do due diligence.
However, Eng Luyimbazi asked that the team first confirms with the US based company the date they would be able to receive them.

Verification team
Eng Luyimbazi on December 5 wrote to Mr Thomas Elmore the Eutaw Chief Executive Officer asking when the company would be ready to receive the verification team.
“The purpose of this letter is to seek your availability to meet and interact with our officials in this regard,” Eng Luyimbazi wrote.

Mr Baryahuha says the team has since never travelled after Eng Luyimbazi’s directives.
UNRA officials also say they signed the contract because Works minister Abraham Byandala expressly directed in a November 14, 2013 letter that the contract can be signed before due diligence was done.

Mr Byandala has been in the spotlight for disregarding public procurement procedures by directing the roads authority to sign the contract but the minister said he had been advised that the contract could be repudiated if at a later stage, the due diligence report indicated that those representing the company did not have the authority to do so.

Mr Byandala, also faulted his predecessor, Mr John Nasasira, and the minister for the Presidency, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, for orchestrating a smear campaign against him.
Both Mr Nasasira and Mr Tumwebaze have since dismissed the accusation, saying Mr Byandala is using their names as a scapegoat for his woes and asked the embattled Works minister to take responsibility for his actions.

The Finance ministry has since blocked the release of more money to the company after reports emerged that government could have signed the deal with a fictitious company purporting to represent Eutaw in Uganda.

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