By Umaru Kashaka
LEGISLATORS on the physical infrastructure committee on Wednesday tasked the State Minister for Works, John Byabagambi to explain why M&B Engineering Company abandoned the construction of Birara Bridge at the border of Rukungiri and Kanungu districts after receiving over sh1b payment.
While meeting officials from Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and the ministry led by Byabagambi over sh389b budget request for the 2014/15 financial year, the MPs noted that a certificate of completion was given to the contractor even after less than 20% of the work had been done.
“This bridge was a lifeline, connecting Uganda to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why did you pay this contractor for work not executed? This caused government loss because this money would have been put to better use,” the committee chairperson and Buhweju County MP Ephraim Biraaro asked.
The committee also queried sh31b that was paid for costs that should have been avoided if proper contract management procedures had been followed.
The minister admitted that the contractor abandoned the work, but said four of his staff connived with the contractor to have a certificate of completion issued and have since been interdicted.
“It’s true this contractor abandoned the work and I here he is in South Sudan. But the ministry did its part administratively to prosecute these individuals (names not revealed) who colluded with the contractor and if the trial is slow that is none of our business,” Byabagambi said.
He added: “However, it opened our eyes and these fake bonds will never take place again because these unscrupulous individuals usually target remote areas where they think the minister can easily reach. We have put in place a legal team to look at the bonds.”
He noted that out of a total of sh389.3b that is required for the ministry, only sh274.4b is available leaving a funding gap of sh114.9b.