OPM in fresh Shs1b pay scandal
Kampala. The Inspector General of Government (IGG), Ms Irene Mulyagonja, has ordered the interdiction of three senior Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) staff over allegations of inflating the price of a plot that they bought by almost Shs800m.
In a December 4, 2018, letter to the OPM Permanent Secretary, Ms Christine Guwatudde, the ombudsman noted that there was no justification for OPM to pay Shs1.1b for land priced by a private valuer at Shs450m.
“In contrast to the Chief Government Valuer’s valuation of Shs1.1b, Ms Stanfield, an independent valuer engaged by the IGG, discounted the same plot [price to] Shs450m as of March 2016,” Ms Mulyagonja stated.
The 0.241-acre land, on Block 2 Plot 253, is adjacent to OPM refugees’ department offices on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road in Old Kampala.
The IGG said the transaction could have only been possible through “conspiracy” of the officials who, she said, should be handed over to the Public Service Commission for disciplinary action.
Two of the trio, senior procurement officer John Kateregga and Mr Stephen Twesigye, the logistics and administration officer, denied any wrongdoing.
“I am getting news from you [and] I cannot discuss with you as [civil service] standing orders do not allow me,” Mr Kateregga said.
Mr Charles Bafaki, the principal settlement officer and focal person for land acquisition in department of refugees at OPM, side-stepped procurement rules during purchase of the land. The purchase was initiated in January 2015.
This prompted the PS in OPM to halt the process in December 2016, advising a second procurement process adhering to Public Procurement and Disposal Act guidelines.
“It (procurement) had several gaps with the procurement being managed like a micro procurement,” Ms Mulyagonja wrote. Mr Bafaki said he was not aware of a case for him to answer.
The IGG said the second process led by Mr Kateregga was hurried within 10 days from its initiation on December 20, and toward December 31, 2016, the end of the Financial Year for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which picked the bills.
OPM officials eventually paid Mr Musa Ssewava, the land owner, Shs1.1b after opting for direct procurement.
The purchase price was fixed with the recommendation of Mr Gilbert Kermundu, the chief government valuer, who noted that OPM was a “special purchaser” and had to pay a special rate.
Ms Guwatudde yesterday referred our inquiries to Mr Joel Wanjala, the undersecretary for Finance and Administration, who referred us to OPM head of communication Julius Mucunguzi.
“I have taken note of your inquiry and I will give you [a] feedback after consultations with the permanent secretary,” Mr Mucunguzi said.