26 May 2010

Uganda: Ministry of Defence in Talks to Buy Lugazi University

The Ministry of Defence is negotiating with the proprietor of the Lugazi University to turn the institution into a military academy, officials confirmed yesterday.

According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the deal could be sealed soon even though the actual value of the property remains a sticking point. "We are negotiating with them and if we reach a price which is fair, we shall buy," said Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga. However, sources in the ministry told Daily Monitor there were questions about the actual value of the property.

The sources, preferring to talk on anonymity, said whereas the university is valued at Shs6 billion, there are attempts to make a purchase offer of Shs25 billion. But Mr Kiyonga yesterday said he would not allow a bad deal.

The minister said although he was not privy to the details of the negotiations, the value of the assets has to be determined by the Government Valuer, whose report will form a basis for payment. "I know we are looking for a place to establish our engineering unit but our procurement unit has the details of the negotiations and they haven't come to me yet," Mr Kiyonga said. He said if there are some backdoor negotiations, "we shall get to know such games."

Asked to comment on the value contradictions, the Defence Ministry Permanent Secretary, Ms Rosette Byangoma, said standing orders do not allow her to publicly comment on defence matters, describing them as classified.

The Defence spokesman, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, said, "We have plans to establish a research and development centre but we shall inform the public once we are set to go." He said the discussions "are on with the university."

Besides cost, the manner of engagement is also a sticking issue. Whereas the ministry talks of an outright purchase of the facility, its proprietor, Mr Alfred Higenyi, told Daily Monitor he is negotiating a joint venture with defence. "Some departments of the university will be operating on civilian lines," Mr Higenyi, a former accountant in the ministry, said yesterday on phone.

No strange affair

He, however, refused to disclose the worth of the facility, adding that he saw nothing strange in letting the military run the university. "This is a military which is pro-people. By allowing the military and civilians to run the university, there is nothing new." According to Mr Kiyonga, the university will house the UPDF engineering unit because that in Magamaga Barracks in Mayuge District is short on space.

The army also has a mechanised Division in Masaka District. The university has recently had its fair share of problems with the National Council for Higher Education last week putting a notice that the institution stood the risk of deregistration if it did not work towards meeting set standards. The notice said students had not had lectures while teachers had spent months minus pay.

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