Works minister John Byabagambi and the new Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) executive director Allen Kagina have agreed to handpick a contractor for Hoima-Butiaba-Wasenko road despite an earlier petition on influence-peddling and fraud in the process.
Mr Byabagambi has also changed from his earlier position where he opposed the move, when he was still a junior minister. A whistleblower had raised the red flag in a petition to Ms Kagina indicating that the project cost had been inflated by Shs66 billion ($20 million).
The whistleblower report also cited massive irregularities from disregarding PPDA regulations to abuse of office by the principal bodies involved in the single sourcing of the contractor, M/s Kolin Insaat, a Turkish construction firm.
The 111km road stretches from Hoima to Butiaba on Lake Albert and one of the major corridors in the oil-rich Albertine Graben in south western Uganda. The project is expected to cost Shs454 billion.
According to correspondences seen by Daily Monitor, the decision to zero down on Kolin for the project, was reached by the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi and former acting UNRA boss James Okiror during a meeting held on December 3, 2014, called to discuss critical roads in the oil exploration region.
The meeting also “discussed a proposal by Kolin for pre-financing” of the project given the company’s earlier record. Kolin also contracted the 92km Kaiso-Tonya road that stretches from Hoima District to the oil villages of Kaiso, and Tonya where two oil companies, UK’s Tullow Oil PLC and China’s Cnooc are operating.
Therefore: “Given the urgency to develop the oil roads, it was recommended that considering Kolin’s proposal for pre-financing, UNRA goes ahead to contract them to undertake the project,” Mr Muhakanizi, also the Finance ministry Permanent Secretary, directed UNRA in a December 3, 2014 letter. The letter was also copied to Works ministry PS and UNRA’s board chairperson, Ms Angella Kyirabwire.
UNRA’s contracts committee meeting on February 12, however, recommended an open international bidding for the project. Mr Byabagambi, then as Works junior minister, had also backed the UNRA contracts committee decision and opposed the move to single-source Kolin, indicating single-sourcing contractors only applies to emergency situations in which case the Hoima-Butiaba-Wasenko road was not.
In March, the matter reverted to Cabinet which reportedly agreed to stick to Kolin. Mr Byabagambi later on March 23 wrote to UNRA indicating “no objection for the plan by Ministry of Finance.”
Ms Kagina, who was appointed to the helm of UNRA in April, this newspaper understands, first disagreed with the earlier decision of the ministries of Works and Finance. She wrote to Mr Byabagamabi on May 7, questioning the rationale of their decision and recommended it is prudent that proper procurement laws be followed. The minister responded on May 25, reiterating the decision had been sanctioned by Cabinet. Resultantly, Ms Kagina on May 25, also gave a no objection.
Ms Kagina could not be reached for comment yesterday on whether she had looked into concerns raised by the whistleblower, as her known number was unavailable.