By Charles Etukuri
Claims by Works Minister Abraham Byandala “dragging me in the Mukono-Katosi road mess are baseless, unsubstantiated, cooked up and an attempt to divert public attention,” Minister for Presidency, Frank Tumwebaze, has said.
Reacting to Byandala’s allegations following an interview in a local newspaper on Wednesday, Tumwebaze accused his fellow senior minister of relying on hearsay to malign colleagues in Cabinet.
Minister Frank Tumwebaze’s statement
I have read contents of an interview of my colleague Hon Abraham Byandala, the works minister, in the Observer newspaper of August 20, 2014 and take serious exception to the baseless, unsubstantiated and cooked up allegations he levels against me in his attempt to divert media and public attention from the issues surrounding his docket.
While I sympathize with him over the challenges he is facing in the works sector, just as it is elsewhere, I find his attempt to unfairly and wrongly drag my name into his woes strange. I do not know what he seeks to achieve but let me say the following about the issues he raises about me:
1. Hon Byandala begins by explaining at length how his ministry (works) and its sister agency, UNRA, procured an American company, Eutaw, to do the Katosi Road. In the interview, he defends the entire process while justifying his actions. It is therefore strange that he drags my name into the procurement shenanigans that he is caught up in.
Just for the record, in 2010, when this procurement was reportedly happening, I was a backbencher in Parliament. I was not a Cabinet minister. Hon Byandala should explain how I influenced that procurement whether directly or indirectly. Did I put him on pressure? Did I write to him? Did I do any bidding for anyone? Is it me who instructed him to write to UNRA asking them to award a contract before due diligence was done?
He further states that he once attended a meeting in kisozi or state house with the directors of the American company. So was I part of that meeting? And again what did that alluded to State House meeting have to do with the procurement in question? Politics aside, i pray that logic prevails here.
2. Secondly, he attempts to link me to a company he calls Tides and says that he was told it is owned either by my relatives or those of Minister Byabagambi, or former minister Richard Kaijuka. It is absurd that the minister can rely on hearsay to malign colleagues in that manner. The fact is I have no relationship with any such company and this can be proved from the relevant authorities, including Registrar of Companies. But since he is making the allegation, I will let Hon Byandala offer the proof.
But even if that company was owned by my relatives or those of the other people he mentions, and supposing it’s also true the alleged company was in a way associated with Eutaw, how does that link up with the procurement process that his ministry undertook and concluded with his own intervention and directive put in writing? This is yet contradiction on his part.
If UNRA and its parent supervisory ministry of works initiated a procurement process for Katosi road and through a lengthy procedure as explained by himself (Hon Byandala) picked that company, later cancelled a process on their own and yet later on and again on their own revived it, how then does the minister say that the company was sourced by other people? It doesn’t add up. If he insists that his sector did the right thing let him defend that.
But again, it is strange that it is the minister who is laboring to explain procurement procedures when the PPDA law gives that responsibility to some other officers and not ministers. So why is he speaking for those tasked legally by the law?
3. Hon Byandala says I am part of a group fighting for his job. He accuses me of personally taking stories about the Katosi Road procurement to the New Vision. I find this laughable and yet weird. Hon Byandala should rest in peace knowing that I have no interest in his docket.
As everybody knows, the sector I oversee is so demanding that it would be strange for me to find time to think of taking over a ministry from Hon Byandala. For the last two years as minister for Kampala, I have heard no breathing space. Where would I find time let alone interest to fight for other people’s dockets? That is not me and those who know me closely appreciate that I have never invested or benefited from intrigue.
Finally, I need to state that I am not a New Vision reporter. What business do I have giving stories to the media? That is laughable. My only relationship with the media is always engagement and debate. I respond to their queries on any matter they ask me and occasionally I write opinions for the media on issues I hold views on either in my personal capacity or official role. I don't use the media to fight cheap and intrigue wars.
To the contrary, I can now believe that it’s my colleague who has been sending people to attack me on many radios and use pseudo social media accounts to soil my name. Though i find it painful to engage in an altercation with my cabinet colleague in the media -that is -obviously not the right forum, I have no choice given the fact that he has started it all and chosen to malign me as a person.
I have also asked my lawyers to closely study these allegations and advise me on the way forward.