What you need to know:
Uganda National Roads Authority officials say they were aware of the blacklist of the Chinese construction company by the World Bank.
China Communications Construction Company Limited, the company contracted to construct the four-lane 51.4 kilometre Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway was blacklisted by the World Bank over fraud, the Bank’s website shows.
In 2009, the Bretton Woods Institution, which funds most of the development projects in Africa, debarred the Chinese company and all its subsidiaries from engaging in any road and bridge projects financed by the World Bank Group until January 12 2017. This was because of its alleged fraudulent practices under phase 1 of the Philippines National Roads and Management Project.
Although the highway project is to be funded with money from the Exim Bank of China, critics say the fraud case, raised by the World Bank Groups against the company, puts into disrepute the status of the Chinese multinational company that is set to commence works on Uganda’s first super expressway.
“It is wrong for Uganda, being a member of the World Bank Group and a signatory to the United Nations Charter to accept to contract a company which has been blacklisted,” said Mr Geoffrey Ekanya, MP for Tororo County. “It shows the lack of willingness by the Uganda government to fight graft and fraud.”
Mr Peter Ssebanakita, under whose tenure the contract was awarded, has since resigned from the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). Mr David Luyimbazi, the UNRA director of planning, whose department supervised the awarding of the contract yesterday played down the credibility issues surrounding the contractor.
“It has no impact whatsoever and this is a Chinese funded project, and unless it had been blacklisted in China, that’s when the worries would come up. And we were fully aware that it had been blacklisted by the World Bank by the time we gave them the contract,” Mr Luyimbazi, who is in-charge of the project, said by telephone.
Mr Medard Ssegona, the Busiiro County East MP, said in future the government should do due diligence before giving out contracts. “This particular project is not being sponsored by the World Bank. I would advise the government to in future to do due diligence to avoid such scenarios,” he said.
Works and transport minister Abraham Byandala said he was not aware that the company had been blacklisted. However, he insisted that the blacklisting cannot have any impact on the Uganda project.
The Entebbe-Kampala Highway will link Entebbe in Wakiso District to the city in Kampala.
The award of the construction contract to the Chinese company was opposed by a cross-section of opposition MPs. During this financial year’s budget allocations, they questioned the cost of the road and the World Bank blacklist.
Government then argued that this particular company is different from the one that was blacklisted by the Britton woods institution. Officials from China Communications Construction Company Ltd declined to comment about the matter, asking this newspaper to delay publication of this story.