By Chris Kiwawulo & Simon Masaba
Works and transport minister Eng. Abraham Byandala has been named in the sh24.7b Mukono-Katosi road fraud, as details emerge that the contractor who signed the deal was a sham.
The Inspector General of Government (IGG), in a report, revealed that Byandala directed the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to expeditiously sign the sh165b deal with a non-existent contractor.
The sh24.7b was advance payment released to kick-start the work. Saturday Vision has also established that Eutaw Construction Company, which won the tender, is not the real Eutaw based in the US, but was only used by conmen. One
Apolo Senkeeto posed as Eutaw’s country representative.
The 74km Mukono-Katosi-Nyenga road was a campaign pledge by President Yoweri Museveni ahead of the 1996 presidential polls. New Vision broke the fraud story on Tuesday.
According to a July 17, 2014 letter signed by IGG Justice Irene Mulyagonja, Byandala on November 14, 2013, directed the UNRA accounting officer to implement the contract for the civil works and upgrading of Mukono-Kyetume-Katosi-Nyenga
road from gravel to bitumen.
Byandala’s directive to the UNRA acting executive director, Eng. Ssebugga Kimeze, came while due diligence was still being carried out by the UNRA technical team, which the minister overruled.
“I am aware that you are carrying out due diligence on the above company to ascertain and verify whether indeed the company that bid and was awarded the contract is the one going to sign it. I am advised that if it is found that the people currently in Kampala are not really bonafide directors of the company, the contract can be repudiated,” Byandala wrote.
However, in the same letter, the minister turned around and said: “Due to the need to implement the project very urgently, I am directing you to immediately sign the contract while the due diligence by your technical team continues.” When contacted on Tuesday to comment on claims that he influenced the contract and payment before proper due diligence was done, Byandala said: “I have never approved any payment. Ministers do not approve payments.”
The Mukono-Katosi being upraded
Sources revealed that upon carrying out due diligence, the UNRA technical team, headed by the director of procurement, formerly Ayelew Kibede and now a one Sambwa, advised against signing the contract but Kimeze ignored them basing on
the directive given by the minister.
As a result, the IGG ordered that all transactions, including efforts to assign, sub-contract or otherwise deal with the contract for the works in issue be stayed until final conclusion of the investigations or further orders from her office.
However, Senkeeto’s group went ahead and sub-contracted a Chinese company, called Chongqing International. Chongqing is the same company that paid Senkeeto’s group sh500m for the processing of the insurance bonds.
The IGG also noted that Eutaw had submitted a bid of sh182.9b after which negotiations were held between UNRA and Eutaw and the figure was brought down to sh162.2b.
“The reduction in price from sh182.9b to sh162.2b amounted to a negotiated price contrary to the requirements of the PPDA (Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority) regulations 219(3),” Mulyagonja observed.
There are also unanswered queries on the actual contract price as the amount quoted in the contract agreement is sh165b and not sh162.2b.
The IGG also stated that the UNRA accounting officer wrote to the Solicitor General seeking clearance of the draft contract on October 25, 2013, before the expiry of the notice of the best evaluated bidder, which was displayed on October 23, 2013.
The notice was due to expire on December 5, 2013. The notice period is meant to allow anyone with a complaint against the contract to come up.
Commenting on the sh24.7b fraud, Mulyagonja said there was no evidence that Eutaw furnished UNRA with a performance security and this was contrary to sub-clause 4(2) of the specific conditions of the contract.
“The money that was deposited on the account of an advance payment for the works in the account of Eutaw of 622 Beach land Blvd Suite 201 Vero Beach Florida, in Uganda has since been transferred to different persons and by June 30, 2014,
sh10.9m remained on the account,” she pointed out.
The IGG revealed that the performance bond that Eutaw issued to UNRA was issued in the names of another party, not that of Eutaw from 622 Beach land Blvd Suite 201 Vero Beach Florida. “Although the bids were purchased in Uganda and submitted by Eutaw of Aberdeen in Mississippi, the contract with UNRA was signed with Eutaw of 622 Beach land Blvd Suite 201 Vero Beach Florida,” Mulyagonja stated.
Eutaw disowns Senkeeto and group
Mulyagonja said the proprietors of Eutaw in Aberdeen, Mississippi disclaimed connection to Eutaw of 622 Beach land Blvd Suite 201 Vero Beach Florida and denied knowledge of the persons who purported to sign the bid and accompanying powers of attorney in the procurement process. She said Eutaw of 622 Beach land Blvd Suite 201 Vero Beach Florida has no registered address of service in Uganda.
When Saturday Vision contacted the Eutaw head offices on Commerce Street in Aberdeen, Mississippi, both by telephone and e-mail, they denied having any deal in Uganda or knowing Apolo Senkeeto as their representative.
“I don’t know of anyone or project that the company (Eutaw) is handling in Uganda,” said a lady who received our call.
Eutaw director of business development, John Bond, said the company did not have a contract with anyone in Uganda. “I did a little research and I believe the Eutaw Construction Company that has some dealings in Uganda is in Chicago. I have only been to Nigeria for work and nothing came of those visits. Please, if you don’t mind, let your readers know
that the Eutaw Construction Company in Mississippi has nothing to do with road building in Uganda. Thank you for your help,” Bond stated in an e-mail to Saturday Vision.
Saturday Vision has also established that the names of the directors presented to UNRA do not appear anywhere among the names of Eutaw top officials.
According to the Eutaw website, the company founder, Thomas S. Elmore, is also the chief executive officer. Other directors are William E. Cox (president and chief financial officer0, Robert T. Elmore (chief operating officer and executive Vice- President) and Thomas S. Alan Lyles (chief estimator).
Others are Christie B. Kirkpatrick (corporate secretary and accounting/ human resources administrator), James Long (treasurer and equipment manager) and John Bond (director of business development).
However, details submitted to UNRA show that Richard Pratt and Tim Mdoy were Eutaw directors; Michael Oluey was presented as the company secretary, Baka Kasule as the consultant and Senkeeto as the country representative.
The website of the Eutaw New Vision checked showed that the American company has branches on Commerce Street in Aberdeen, on Orchard Lane in Madison and on Richton Road in Petal.
However, documents submitted to UNRA and Housing Finance Bank show that Eutaw was located on 622 Beach land Blvd Suite 201 Vero Beach Florida in the US. Sources revealed that Senkeeto’s group secured genuine Eutaw documents while bidding for the contract, without the knowledge of the company’s management.
According to minutes seen by Saturday Vision, the ghost company was approached by George Ndahendekire Ndyamuba, who
was the first secretary/ commercial attaché at Uganda’s embassy in the US. Ndyamuba was later recalled from US and given a job at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). But he has since left KCCA and joined private business.
Police probe fraud
Meanwhile, UNRA officials were by press time yet to appear before the Police’s Special Investigations Division (SID) in Kireka for questioning. Those expected to appear were acting executive director (Kimeze), legal head (Baryaruha), accountant Joe Semugooma and the project manager only identified as Olwa.
The Police have already quizzed top managers from Statewide Insurance Company and UAP insurance, who have denied any involvement in the fraud.
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Minister Byandala named in Mukono road scandal