By Hillary Nsambu
Ministry of Foreign Affairs service officer, Patrick Guma Muganda has told the Commercial Court that Imperial Royale Hotel was not ready by the time Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government (CHOGM).
Guma was on Thursday testifying before Justice, Henry Peter Adonyo in a case in which the Attorney General is seeking for orders requiring Imperial Royale Hotel Limited to refund to the Government coffers US$1.4m (sh36.680b)as part of a total of US$ 2.5m which the Government paid the hotel in advance.
Led by Senior State Attorney, Elisha Bafiirawala, Guma told the court that during the CHOGM period in 2007 he was appointed venue manager at Imperial Royale Hotel Limited. He was charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the hotel was ready for the accommodation of journalists that were expected from South Africa.
“However, by the CHOGM time the hotel was still under construction as there were several activities that were still on-going; such as paintings and gardening. The whole place smelt painting and raw concrete.
The plumbers and the technicians were still fixing pipes and wires and the swimming pool had a leakage that flooded the whole parking lot in front of the hotel and in the basement.
There were no secretarial services in place all of which prevented delegates from booking and taking up the hotel accommodation and; as a result the visitors had to look for alternative accommodation elsewhere,” Guma told the court.
Ambassador James Mugume, who is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also told the court that as Uganda prepared to host the 2007 CHOGM, the Government paid Imperial Royale Hotel Ltd US$2.5m (approx. sh646,845,948) in advance inclusive of taxes.
Mugume, who was on further re-examination by Elisha Bafiirawala, further told the court that after receiving that money, the hotel management was supposed to collect that amount money from the delegates and pass it on to the Government that had advanced them the money but; it was never done, because the hotel was not ready to receive the delegate.
However, Imperial Royale Hotel Ltd that is owned by city tycoon, Karim Hirji denied the allegations and stated in its defence that it was ready by the time CHOGM was held here.
It is also stated that Kampala City Council, as it was then, issued a certificate confirming that it was ready by October 26, 2007.
Through its managing director, Karim Hirji, Imperial Royale Hotel Limited sent a message by e-mail to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador James Mugume, informing him that the hotel was ready by October 26, 2007.
However, no delegates were sent by the Government to occupy it as had agreed.
Represented by Timothy Masembe-Kanyererezi, Karim Hirji stated that the government officials, who were supposed to inspect his hotel, Imperial Royale Hotel, did not report at the hotel until November 18, 2007.
That was why the contentious period was between October 26, to November18, 2007.
It is argued that the Government should, therefore, not have built its case on the information by its officials who were not on the ground during the contentious period.
If the Government failed to bring its delegates to occupy the hotel was a risk on its part, because the hotel was not to be on the lookout for guests or delegates to occupy its rooms.
Justice Adonyo adjourned the case until October 1, 2014 after Bafiirawala had informed the court that he would produce three more witnesses to strengthen the case for the state.
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