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Legislators accused the city leaders of inflating the cost of buying solar street lights and building roads.
Mbarara City leaders last Friday found it difficult to account for millions of shillings they spent on roadworks under the Uganda Support to Municipal infrastructure Development (USMID) and construction of some schools.
The Auditor General report for the financial year 2018/2019 queried some of the expenditures without supporting documents.
Appearing before MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for local governments led by Nakaseke South MP Paulson Lutamaguzi Ssemakula, the officials failed to provide answers to some of the queries.
The committee tasked the city clerk, Mr John Behangana Matama, to provide the MPs with supporting documents of how Shs31.6 billion was spent on construction of Bucunku, Mbaguta, Bishop Wills Street, Akiiki-Nyabongo, McAllister, Constantino Lobo and Buremba roads, and Shs739m for building four classroom blocks.
According to the AG’s report, Shs6.5 billion was spent on buying 704 solar street lights, with each valued at Shs9.8m, a figure the MPs said was inflated.
“We have asked them for documents relating to the procurement of these street lights, minutes for awarding these contracts, and they are just fidgeting,” Mr Lutamaguzi said.
The committee also queried the Shs23b meant for the construction of 2.36 kilometres of Victor-Bwana, Stanley and Galt roads.
Each unit cost of road construction per kilometre cost Shs11 billion, a figure the MPs dismissed.
“The construction of 2.36 kilometre roads at Shs23b can’t be realistic, Mbarara seems to be in a different country. How can one kilometre cost Shs11 billion? This is impossible to whichever standards,” Mr Lutamaguzi said.
The committee also found that the city authorities received money for the construction of classroom blocks at Karama and Rwenjeru primary schools, but what was spent is far less than the actual amount received.
The municipal council spent Shs339m on the two schools that had been contracted at Shs739m.
“If you look at some of these projects, the money received is much more than what was paid and they are telling us the projects were completed, when we ask them for documents, they are telling us they are scattered and can’t be readily available,” Mr Lutamaguzi said.
Mr Naboth Namanya, the MP for Rubabo County, said: “According to them almost everything is an error, how do you tell us we can’t access documents because they are just a kilometre away, even your staff who are here can’t explain these irregularities?”
Mr Behangana said he was new in office and could not provide the necessary documents.
“All this accountability and documentation involves a lot of work and engagement, and when there are errors, you get to understand that we are human and these will be collected and proper accountability given,” Mr Behangana said.
The city engineer, Ms Merina Kekijusyo, admitted spending Shs9.8m to buy a street light.
“I came when the project was being implemented but for some projects under USMID, a street light could go for as much as Shs10 million or even Shs11 million,” Ms Kekijusyo said.
The city mayor, Mr Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi, said he was surprised that the technical team could not defend the projects.
“I am disappointed that civil servants can’t defend the projects we have executed. These projects are on ground but what amuses me is that civil servants can’t defend them with proper documentation and accountabilities,” Mr Kakyebezi said.
The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development started implementing Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) funded by the World Bank-IDA through a $ 150 million loan for a period of five years from 2013 to 2018. The programme was designed to enhance institutional performance of 14 municipal councils so as to improve urban service delivery.
In the 2016/2017 financial year, Mbarara constructed 3.49 kilometres which included four roads of Akiiki-Nyabongo, McAllister, Constantino Lobo and Buremba at a cost of Shs 17.8b. In 2017/2018 financial year, 2.57 kilometres included construction of Bucunku Road, Mbaguta Road and Bishop Will Street Road at a cost of Shs13.8b. The city has been given more funds to construct 2.36 kilometres at Victor Bwana, Stanley and Galt roads at a cost of Shs23b this finacial year. In the FY2018/2019, the council received Shs102m for construction of three classroom blocks at Rwenjeru Primary School. The council paid a contractor Shs50m and the project is complete. In the same year, the council received Shs637m for the construction of a classroom block at Karama PS and spent Shs289m on the project.