By Umaru Kashaka
Legislators on the physical infrastructure committee have grilled the works state minister John Byabagambi over sh1.2b that was paid to the M&B Engineering Company to construct Birara Bridge linking Rukungiri to Kanungu districts.
The committee was considering ministry’s sh2.5 trillion budget request for 2014/15 financial with officials from Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA).
The MPs noted that a certificate of completion was given to the contractor when less than 20% of the work had been done.
“This bridge was going to be a lifeline for our people as it was going to link Kanungu with other surrounding areas. Why did you pay this contractor sh1.2b for work not executed? This caused government loss because this money would have been put to better use,” committee chairperson Ephraim Biraaro noted.
The committee also queried sh31b that was paid in cost for constructing Fort Portal-Bundibugyo-Lamia Road, saying the cost would have been avoided if proper contract management procedures had been followed.
“They go on to compensate people even where it’s not necessary. How can you compensate people on road reserves that belong to government?” the Busongora County North MP William Nzoghu asked.
The minister admitted that the contractor abandoned the work at Birara Bridge, but said four of his staff who connived with the contractor to have a certificate of completion issued to him has since been interdicted.
“It’s true this contractor abandoned the work and I hear 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 a certificate was issued. I don’t know how far the prosecution has gone, but they were prosecuted,” Byabagambi said.
The construction of Birara bridge was previously started by the ministry of works, but in December last year UNRA signed a sh13b contract with China Harzone Industry Corp for its construction under a design and build scheme after the first contractor abandoned the site.
It will be a seven-meter bridge with pedestrian walkways on either sides, built with both steel and reinforced concrete.
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Minister Byabagambi grilled over sh1b