By Our Reporter
MPs on Parliament’s Trade and Tourism Committee have quizzed officials from Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) and Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) after reports emerged that a 2 Kilometer road cost Shs2.3bn.
The probe followed an issue raised by Jonathan Ebwalu (Soroti Division West) who castigated UDC for running down Soroti Fruit Factory, citing the high cost of construction of the roads leading to the factory and its perimeter wall yet farmers supplying fruits are paid peanuts and some have fruit rotting away due to lack of market.
While probing the allegations, Mwine Mpaka, the Chairperson Trade Committee tasked the officials of UDC to explain the huge cost of road construction and why when the contractor asked for extension of time, Government topped off that offer by increasing the contract price.
“Towards the end, you reviewed the contract and added the contractor another Shs369.624M. You also need to give reason as to why the contractor requested for more time, but on top of more time, you gave him more money. There is an accusation from the area MPs that you built the most expensive road in the world. We want to get those facts,” said Mwine.
The concern was raised by Catherine Lamwaka (DWR Omoro), who tasked UDC to explain how they came to the conclusion to award the contract for the multi-million road and how many bidders participated in the procurement and what prices the other bidders quoted.
However, Patrick Birungi, the Executive Director at Uganda Development Corporation, denied taking part in the procurement, saying that UDC only provided financing but UIA was in charge of the road construction.
“UIA procured a contractor MG Engineering and Contractors Ltd on August 15th 2013 to construct the priority roads to the projects site within Soroti Industrial and Business park at a contract price of Shs1.856Bn. UIA procured consultancy services of Prome Consults Ltd for construction supervision of roads in the Soroti Industrial and Business Park at a contract price of Shs217.7M,” Birungi said.
He added: “But due to increased scope of work, the total contract for the road construction increased to Shs2.126Bn bringing the total contract sum for both construction and supervision of road works to Shs2.342Bn.”
The UDC boss also lashed out at the endless political interference from politicians, saying this has dragged the Corporation into endless audits and probes by many authorities, prompting workers to divert focus from their mandate.
Birungi explained that UDC is a very powerful body that when one speaks, the auditor general and Internal Security Organ (ISO) reacts, so all these come in to establish what is on ground.
“That is why we are saying we have frequent audits, we aren’t opposed to statutory audits; it is provided for in the law. We aren’t even opposed to investigations, but when they are too many, we change all our hours from technical details to handling audits,” said Birungi.
His complaints attracted angry reactions from lawmakers like Michael Timuzigu (Kajara County) who noted that any registered company must be audited by law.
“If the audit is reduced and it is a government entity, that means we shall not see any profit and the factory will become a white elephant. I want you to substantiate about the audit you don’t want, is it the legal audits or there are some illegal audits?” asked Timuzigu.
Birungi replied saying that audits are a noble duty and leaders to provide oversight, but said the biggest issue comes when politicians spread fake news about UDC and this diverts the Corporation off its course.
“The reason we are here is because one MP who came to this Committee and provided information and in that sitting, we proved that what he presented was wrong and I would wish at your discretion to also get supporting documents. When MPs of that nature go to the public, it ignites several investigations and audits,” remarked Birungi.
When asked if Ebwalu had a personal vendetta with UDC, Birungi couldn’t back up his claim and was prompted to withdraw his allegations.
The Committee is set to travel to Soroti Fruit Factory tomorrow and look at the multi-million road and perimeter wall as part of their investigations into the allegations.