By Anthony Wesaka
The High Court in Kampala has upheld the decision by government to terminate the contract of the project manager of the specialised hospital project at Lubowa near Kampala.
Government had through the Health and Finance ministries, on June 15, 2016, executed a Public Works Investment Agreement with Finasi/Roko Construction for the financing, design, and construction of 240-bed facility.
However, in a February 24, 2017 letter, signed by Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine, government terminated the contract of Mr John Tumwesigye, the project manager, since no work by the contractor was being executed five months after the signing of the contract.
In his ruling on Friday, Justice Musa Ssekaana said: "The termination of the contract was a measure aimed at saving the government from further loss [of money] by the permanent secretary of the Health ministry which was within her constitutional function and duty under article 174 (3) (d).
Defence witness number one (Dr Atwine), led evidence to show that five months after the execution of the agreement, the project for which the plaintiff (Mr Tumwesigye) was hired to manage, had not yet commenced and as a result, the plaintiff did not have any work and yet he was being paid his salary which evidence was uncontroverted."
He added: "Defence witness one brought the loss of public funds where no work was done to the attention of the senior top management committee who agreed with the 2nd defendant (Dr Atwine) and resolved to seek the Solicitor General's advice in regard to terminating the services of the plaintiff (Tumwesigye). The Solicitor General advised that the plaintiff's contract be terminated in accordance with clause 15 of the contract."
The judge also exonerated Dr Atwine of any wrongdoing when she signed off the termination letter.
Mr Tumwesigye had accused Dr Atwine of not having powers to sign his termination letter.
"I find that the 2nd defendant (Dr Atwine) in her capacity as the permanent secretary, Ministry of Health, acted within her mandate, authority and power in terminating the plaintiff's contract," Justice Ssekaana ruled.
The judge dismissed Mr Tumwesigye's case with costs.
Mr Tumwesigye was asking for $150,000 (about Shs532m) as damages, general damages, exemplary and aggravated damages.
In 2019, Parliament earmarked a Shs1.4 trillion loan to SPV Finasi/Roko led by Italian investor Enrica Pinetti for the construction of the hospital.
This came after President Museveni directed the Ministry of Health to assist Ms Enrica to build her hospital at Lubowa so that referrals abroad can be stopped and also end the hemorrhage of an estimated $150 million (about Shs532b) per year that goes into "medical tourism" to India.
In March last year, in an interview with the Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, revealed that the construction of the said hospital, was 30 per cent behind schedule.