MPs query Shs80 billion mineral survey deal

Wednesday November 20 2019

Karimojong artisanal  miners  search f

Karimojong artisanal miners search for gold in Lolung in Rupa Sub-county in Moroto District last year. PHOTO BY STEVE ARIONG 

By RISDEL KASASIRA

Members of Parliament on the National Economy Committee yesterday queried a deal awarded to a Spanish company to do a geological mapping of minerals in Karamoja.

The MPs say it was wrong to award the deal to Xcalibur at Euros 20.6m (about Shs82b) and leave out SRK Exploration Services which had proposed to do the same work at $9.6m (about Shs35b).

“We have approved loans before which are not supposed to be approved. This is a dirty deal and should be rejected,” Ayivu MP Bernard Atiku said.

Government intends to borrow the money from Corporate International Fund of Spain but the legislators say they have received a query from a whistleblower on a flawed procurement process which Cabinet has already approved.

Before the MPs raised the query, the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi had told the committee that he had received a whistleblower’s report contesting the figure presented by Xcalibur.

After receiving the whistleblower’s report on July 23, Mr Muhakanizi said he wrote to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development asking them to explain the cost difference.

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“The purpose of this letter is to request you to explain the difference in costs for the project as alleged by the whistleblower and provide assurance that there is unjustified cause for this Ministry not to proceed to parliament with Xcalibur,” he wrote.
In response, the Director of Geological Survey and Mines, Zanchary Baguma, told the committee that SRK quoted a much lower figure because its proposal didn’t match the ministry’s technical specifications. Baguma was appearing with Muhakanizi before the committee.

Baguma said SRK had quoted 27,000sqkm which didn’t cover the whole area needed to be surveyed and Xcalibur quoted at least 40,000sqms.

He said 2146 square kilometres are in Lamwo district and 37,294 square kilometres in Karamoja and part of Mount Elgon.
“There are specifications we wanted because some parts of Lamwo and Mount Elgon were not mapped,” Mr Baguma told the MPs.
He said Xcalibur had promised to also survey the presence of gravity water in Karamoja, which is water-stricken. “There is no way SRK proposal would have worked for us because it was general,” he said.

Mr Baguma said since 2011, they have been writing to the Ministry of Finance asking for funds to do airborne geophysical survey and geological mapping without success.

Ruhinda North MP Thomas Tayebwa asked the Ministry of Energy and Minerals to bring the list of the companies that participated in the procurement.

Karamoja, which represents 20 per cent of the country’s geographical size, is the only region that has not been surveyed because of the instability that reined in 2006 when the national survey was done.

Mr Muhakanizi was asked to explain why government project funded by loans often delay because of delayed procurement processes.
He also blamed lobbyists of companies who he accused of pushing their individual interests at the expense of national interest.
“It is time for us to start questioning the movement of these lobbyists and their interests,” he said.

He also blamed the accounting and procurement officers who he said start the procurement process late.

rkasasira@ug.nationmedia.com

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