PS Ssali in spot of bother over graft claims in ministry

In this file photo, Trade, Industry and Cooperatives minister Francis Mwebesa (right) and the ministry’s Permanent Secretary (PS) Geraldine Ssali, arrive for a press conference in Kampala on July 6, 2023. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • There have been widespread claims of corruption in the ministry.

The Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC), Ms Geraldine Ssali, has denied allegations that there is corruption and abuse of office taking place in the ministry. 

This follows several concerns raised by witnesses who were interfacing with Parliament’s Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry on Monday.

The concerns include that the cost of ministers’ cars was allegedly inflated, renovations of the MTIC offices allegedly cost more than was budgeted for and that the ministry spent Shs400 million to transport documents from the MTIC offices on Farmer’s House on Parliamentary Avenue in Kampala to Entebbe town in Wakiso District, which is 34 kilometres away. 

Mr Alfred Lapyem, a former head of procurement at MTIC, also told the committee that an office attendant, Mr Tom Opio, spearheaded the procurement of five vehicles for use by ministers and that the deal reportedly cost taxpayers more than Shs600 million for each car.

Mr Lapyem said Mr Opio was given the responsibility of procuring the vehicles after the former was removed from the position of head of procurement.

However, addressing journalists at MTIC offices yesterday, Ms Ssali said: “This whole thing that an office attendant got the procurement that is not true. Of course, the attendant is there to support but is not the one doing the actual procurement.”

Ms Ssali said Mr Lapyem lied to the committee.

“Now this person, Mr Lapweny, has gone off to tell the committee that he has saved money because we had inflated the prices. But he is the one who had inflated prices after coming up with a value of Shs3.2 billion [and yet an alternative source told them that it would cost] Shs2.82 billion, a difference of Shs385 million, that is an inflation of 14 percent and he [did] that approval on November 7, 2021,” she said.

Ms Ssali said Mr Lapweny was removed from his position because he was opposing the main agenda of MTIC to save money for the entity. 

On the allegations that MTIC had used Shs400 million to transport documents from MTIC to Entebbe District, Ms Ssali said the figure was exaggerated.

“I will share with you [documents] to see that the cost of transporting those records to Entebbe came to Shs59.3 million and [this] included fuel, hiring the people who were collecting them from different offices and loading and off-loading them at Entebbe and packing them in the rooms they were supposed to be,” she said.

She added that the current ongoing renovations at the MTIC cost Shs6 billion and not more as is being claimed in some reports.

Ms Ssali is set to interface with the Trade committee at an unspecified date in this month to address the issues at the ministry.

While addressing the committee yesterday, Mr Opio denied involvement in procurement of vehicles, saying: “There are people who just don’t like me.” 

The committee chairperson, Mr Mwine Mpaka (Mbarara City South), directed that Mr Opio records a statement with the police.


In the previous financial year 2021/2022, Parliament approved a supplementary budget of Shs54 billion. 
Part of the money was for purchasing five vehicles for ministry and for MTIC to rent out other offices. The need to rent was occasioned by the dilapidated state of the structure at Farmers’ House. 

Kingdom Kampala, a multipurpose building, had been selected and would cost about Shs8 billion annually to rent the space. 

The chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry, Mr Mwine Mpaka (Mbarara City South), said Shs5 billion was provided for renting the office space, Shs3 billion for doing fittings and Shs2 billion to set up infrastructure in the event that the ministry shifted to a new housing facility.

Office attendant accused of fraud and taking over procurement role at Ministry


The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Ms Geraldine Ssali, told journalists yesterday that the best decision had been to renovate the premises, a move that would save money at the Ministry.