3 February 2013

Uganda: IGG Wrong On Karuma Bid - MP

The U.S $1.2 billion (shs 3.1 trillion) Karuma dam project is shining a little less brightly in the eyes of some Ugandans especially after its bidding process was halted by the Inspectorate of Government in part due to bribery allegations.

Now a lawmaker fears the mafia in the energy sector has spread its ugly wings to the $1.2bn Karuma dam.

"I am concerned that an important energy project might be frustrated by the same mafias who benefit from the current shameful state of affairs," writes Kabale Municipality MP Andrew Baryayanga Aja, who was a member of the Ad hoc committee on energy, which lifted the lid on the rot in the sector.

Aja, whose letter is copied to the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Irene Mulyagonja, argues that the recent decision by her office to halt the bidding process is legally flawed.

"It is indeed the duty of everyone to uphold the rule of law in order for this country to move forward. In this connection I wish to draw your attention to the fact that the issues that you are meant to investigate are before Justice Faith Mwondha of the Nakawa High court," reads Aja's letter also copied to the President, speaker of parliament and the Attorney General.

The spokesperson in the office of the IGG, Munira Ali, acknowledged receiving the petition but said Mulyagonja would respond in the course of this week. In 2012, a whistleblower, Twine Muganga, dragged the Procurement and Disposal Unit of the Energy ministry to the High court alleging that the bidding process was marred by bribery.

In his letter, the lawmaker cites Article 19(1) (c) of the Inspectorate of Government Act which prohibits an investigation in any civil matter which is before court. Last week, the IGG halted the process after a whistleblower claimed officials in the ministry of Energy had received bribes to favour one of the firms.

According to the IGG, one of the firms, China Water and Electric Corporation (CWE) had allegedly been favoured over Salini, Ghezouba, Orascom, China Hydro and Perlite, who were also bidding to construct the dam. Eng Paul Mubiru, who has been acting for the permanent secretary in the energy ministry, refuted claims that CWE had been awarded the contract.

He said the process was at the stage of the financial evaluation and after the technical evaluation stage, the IGG intervened and issued a directive for the process to be halted. It was yet another setback for the bidding process, which has been dogged by court injunctions and a repetition of the technical evaluation process, causing further delay to the construction of the dam, which was scheduled to begin two years ago.

Aja is worried that the actions of the whistleblower who petitioned court could be a smokescreen for local interests knocked out by superior competitors. He claims the allegations of bribery were already investigated and found to hold no water.

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