MPs block extra Shs300b for Lubowa hospital project

President Museveni (centre) and Ms Enrica Pinetti (left) look at the artistic impression of the proposed international hospital at the ground breaking ceremony on June 1, 2017. MONITOR PHOTO.

What you need to know:

  • Already, a whooping Shs348b has been disbursed in the current financial year for the project, but MPs are dismayed that there is no substantial work on site to prove that the initial money was adequately used to qualify for another disbursement

Finance minister Matia Kasaija told Parliament yesterday that experts who were outsourced by Italian investor Enrica Pinetti for the construction of the Lubowa International Specialised Hospital, took off and never returned and, therefore, failed to deliver on the project.

This revelation was made as Ministry of Finance officials attempted to defend the budgetary request of Shs319b that government wants Parliament to approve and include in the upcoming national Budget of the Financial Year 2022/2023 so that it can be advanced to the same investor for the construction of the same hospital on Entebbe Road.

Already, a whooping Shs348b has been disbursed in the current financial year for the project, but MPs are dismayed that there is no substantial work on site to prove that the initial money was adequately used to qualify for another disbursement.

Mr Keefa Kiwanuka, the chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Finance, asked Mr Kasaija to give reasons why the MPs should endorse the inclusion of the money in the budget and yet there is no pronounced work on site.
 “… we feel there hasn’t been value for money, and this is complicated by the fact that the contractor has withdrawn, that the project has been abandoned, so our thinking is that money should be reallocated to more deserving areas,” Mr Kiwanuka told the minister and his team. 
In response, Mr Kasaija gave a detailed defence for the request, insisting that the investor should be given more money.

“Not because I am defending the developer, she had a very big problem, the contractor with whom she linked up at the beginning had financial problems. So she had to drop that contractor,” Mr Kasaija said. 
He added: “But because of Covid-19 pandemic, for the last two years, she [investor] didn’t work because most of the experts [she was to work with] were from outside Uganda. Some of them ran back [to their home countries], while others failed to come.”

This didn’t sit well with some MPs, including the shadow finance minister Muwanga Kivumbi, who demanded that Mr Kasaija explains why Shs348b in promissory notes was issued without any tangible work on the project.
Mr Kasaija requested to be accorded some time with his officials before reporting back to Parliament with more details.
About 40 minutes later, State minister for Finance Amos Logoloobi (in-charge of planning) and counterpart Henry Musasizi (General Duties) tabled a document showing that government had given Ms Pinetti money in five instalments. 

The committee members, including Mr Paul Omara (Otuke County), immediately demanded an audit into the said instalments to establish value for money, a suggestion that Mr Kasaija supported.
“I am also going to ask the Auditor General [to assess] if the works on the ground are commensurate with this money we have already spent,” Mr Kasaija said.
However, majority members demanded that government instead allows them have a physical visit to the site before they approve the money.
Minister Kasaija also warned that in the event the MPs don’t approve the money, government will face consequences.

This sparked an uproar, with Mr Karim Masaba (Industrial Division, Mbale City) demanding that the investor be punished instead.
“They [investors] [should be] the ones to face consequences because they breached the agreement. This hospital should be visible [by now],” Mr Masaba said.
He added: “Actually, it is us [government] supposed to be asking these people to refund our money. Let them actually refund our money and even incur costs for wasting our time”.

Mr Gerald Nangoli (Elgon North), together with other MPs, vowed not to approve the money unless a detailed audit into the said money is done.
“As a committee, we have taken a decision that we shall stand with the people of Uganda and we shall not release this money because there is nothing to show for the first release,” Mr Nangoli said. 

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