By Our Reporter
The Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry has uncovered gross mismanagement and abuse of office at Soroti Fruit Factory.
According to the committee findings presented yesterday 2nd March 2022, the factory which was established by the government to promote agricultural transformation and add value to the under-utilised fruit production in the region is punctured by irregularities in its operation.
The Committee Chairperson, Hon Mwine Mpaka presented the findings to Parliament on Wednesday, 02 March 2022 in a sitting chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Anita Among.
Mpaka cited the construction of a perimeter wall at a cost of Shs2.5 billion from shs734 million previously quoted.
This he said was occasioned by the awarding of the works to another contractor.
”The perimeter wall had been quoted for a sum amounting to Shs734 million by Willis International Engineers and Construction Limited. However, Uganda Development Corporation, on behalf of Soroti Factory, entered another contract with Willis Construction again before the expiry of the previous contract costing Shs369 million,” the report reads in part.
The committee found that the wall was constructed in a shoddy manner and was already degrading.
Mpaka held that the roads were poorly constructed adding that the Uganda Investment Authority and Ministries of Finance and Works were not involved in the procurement and planning of the roads.
“Certain sections of the roads were constructed through swamps and streams but were not given proper drainage making them susceptible to flooding,” he added.
Mpaka added that Teso Farmers’ Cooperative Union (TEFCU), a 20 per cent shareholder in the Soroti Factory and charged with purchasing fruit from the local farmers has failed to meet the obligations in the Local Purchasing Orders.
Mpaka said that despite farmers having rotting fruits in their orchards, the TEFCU had consistently failed to satisfy the demand for the Factory since 2019.
The findings also reveal that fruit farmers are not allowed to supply fruit directly to the factory, something he said is a reserve of TEFCU.
“A double sack of oranges weighing about 120kgs is bought from the farmers at a meagre price between shs15,000-20,000 without weighing. The same bag is later sold the same to the fruits factory at shs70,000,” he said adding that, ‘buying fruits from farmers without weighing them is exploitation and could be the reason as to why some farmers have resorted to cutting down their orchards while others have neglected the fruits to fall and rot in the orchards’.
The committee concluded that the factory was yet to be utilised for the reasons it was set up based on the prevailing issues concerning its management.
Parliament deferred the debate on the report to a week for proper scrutiny