MPS on the public accounts committee yesterday handed over Broadcasting Council chairman Godfrey Mutabaazi to the criminal investigations department over a $5m (about sh9.4b) deal he negotiated with Globe-cast for the CHOGM media centre.
The MPs, who were armed with copies of Mutabaaziâ€™s correspondences with the South African firm, accused him of single-handedly negotiating the deal.
Mutabaazi, together with Martin Odwedo, the former permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, were asked to explain why there was no competitive bidding for the services.
They wondered why a proposal that was earlier submitted by the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation to buy equipment to enable them do the job was ignored, and why they, instead, hired Globecast which went back with all the equipment they procured for the four-day event.
Mutabaazi was co-opted on the media and publicity sub-committee under the Prime Ministerâ€™s office for his â€œtechnical competenceâ€.
The committee noted that Mutabaazi met Globecast during the 2005 Commonwealth meeting in Malta and kept corresponding with the firm before coming up with sh9.4b, which he communicated to the CHOGM Secretariat as â€œour final figureâ€. The MPs wondered in what capacity he was writing â€œour figureâ€ and why he did not involve the other members of the media sub-committee in the negotiations.
Kagole Kivumbi, who was in charge of publicity, said Globecastâ€™s role was to set up a media centre at Imperial Royale Hotel to steer all media activity, while Saatchi and Saatchi was to carry out local awareness.
He tabled a letter of January 3, 2007 allowing for selective sourcing for CHOGM projects that were timebound. But committee chairman Nandala Mafabi argued that there was a lot of time since Ugandaâ€™s bid was confirmed in Malta in 2005.
He said direct procurement was only allowed where the firm was offering specialised services which no other company could offer.
In his explanation, Mutabaazi said Globecast had billed the organisers in Malta $3m and those in Nigeria $6m.
He denied negotiating behind his colleaguesâ€™ backs. He argued that meetings were organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that he was merely a technical person.
Claver Mutuluuza (NRM) noted that $5m was a lot of money for only hiring equipment which would be carted away.
David Bahati (NRM) wondered why after his visit to Malta, Mutabaazi started communicating with Globecast as chairman of the Broadcasting Council and not as a member of a sub-committee.
William Nsubuga (NRM) asked to be shown a survey that was conducted of the infrastructure in Malta and Nigeria in order to come up with the $5m.
Tom Kazibwe (NRM) wondered whether Mutabaaziâ€™s mandate in Malta was to assess Globecastâ€™s technical competence or to negotiate the price for their services.
â€œUnder what authority did you hijack the authority of the accounting officer?â€ he asked.
Nandala noted that according to information available to the committee, the maximum the Government would have paid for the job was $2.5m.
â€œMutabaazi continued authorising payment for the Office of the Prime Minister where he is not a staff. The contract was addressed to him, yet he was not a contracting officer,â€ Mafabi later told journalists.
When the committee asked Kivumbi whether he was the project manager, he replied that he was the spokesperson for the national taskforce and he only took over the responsibility of the media centre in November 2007.
The committee wondered who was sanctioning payments from February when the project implementation began.
The MPs threatened to impose a sh20m penalty or 12 years imprisonment on Odwedo for failing to provide information to the Auditor General when his office queried over sh7.8b paid to Globecast in January 2008.
â€œCompliance to contract specifications could not be adequately verified due to lack of documentation,â€ the Auditor Generalâ€™s report noted.
â€œThe documents provided were not sufficient to enable me ascertain that all what was paid for was provided.â€
This, he said, included the design and construction of the media centre at $580,000, charges for logistics at $795,000, IT equipment at Â£350,000 and furnishing and dressing at $285,000.
The audit further noted that some of the equipment brought into the country by Globecast was for hire by other broadcasters. The firm also had to manage the hiring of office space, furniture, phone and forex stands and submit all revenues to the Government.
â€œHowever, revenue accrued has never been disclosed. Reports available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicate that the company collected 20,560 euro (sh58m) from hire of office space,â€ said the audit.
In addition, the report noted, Globecast never paid any taxes or duties since â€œthe amount of the tax payable is not knownâ€.
The CHOGM reports can be found on the website of the Office of the Auditor General on: www.oag.go.ug
Broadcasting boss probed on CHOGM