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Four ministers deny CHOGM scam

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th November 2010 03:00 AM

FOUR ministers accused of mismanaging funds for the Commonwealth summit in 2007 pleaded their innocence before Parliament yesterday.

FOUR ministers accused of mismanaging funds for the Commonwealth summit in 2007 pleaded their innocence before Parliament yesterday.

By Joyce Namutebi
and Catherine Bekunda

FOUR ministers accused of mismanaging funds for the Commonwealth summit in 2007 pleaded their innocence before Parliament yesterday.

The ministers were Amama Mbabazi (security), John Byabagambi (works), Fred Omach (finance, general duties) and Isaac Musumba (regional affairs).

According to a report from the Parliament’s public accounts committee, (PAC) Mbabazi diverted $5m (about sh11b) from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology for the purchase of walkie-talkies.

PAC said the communication system was not in the Chogm budget and the diverted money was meant for the national backbone infrastructure project.

Musumba reportedly influenced the construction of a road to Enkombe apartments in Mbuya, a city suburb, yet it was not among the CHOGM roads.

Byabagambi is accused of causing a loss of sh1.7b in unapproved additional road works, while Omach is held responsible for using over $1.5m on building works at J&M Airport Road Hotel, a private enterprise.

In his response, Amama Mbabazi said “the finding by the committee was unfortunately wrong”.

e said on March 28, 2007, Cabinet approved the terms of borrowing to finance the National Data Transmission backbone infrastructure project.

The PAC report had also said the procurement of the Tetra system for security did not comply with the procurement rules. But Mbabazi insisted that the procurement of the National Transmission Backbone and E-Government was approved on October 5, 2006.

On raising the figure from $3.2 to $5m, which Balton had initially quoted in its expression of interest, Mbabazi said he told the President about it because “that is what we had been briefed about by the technical sub-committee to be the possible estimated cost.”

However, according to the technical evaluation committee report dated August 28, 2006, and chaired by Ibrahim Kaliisa, Balton quoted $3.4m, Harris at $4.5m, Huawei Technologies $4.7m and ZTE quoted $4.7m.

The minister said the need to procure a Tetra system was reached after the President was convinced that the army’s Harris Communication was inadequate.
Byabagambi also said his ministry was charged with preparing the infrastructure to facilitate the meeting.

The committee had said he unilaterally directed the contractor to do additional works on several roads in Entebbe.

However, Byabagambi said: “As a minister in charge of roads, I did not look at these Chogm infrastructure projects in the context of facilitating the Chogm events only, but as national projects which should live beyond Chogm.”

According to Byabagambi, his instructions were not to the contractor, but the consultant, who is also the resident engineer and an employee of the ministry.

He noted that during his inspection on July 24, 2007, most of the road works had been completed, adding that the Auditor General was satisfied with the works.

Omach said the release of funds to J&M Airport Road Hotel followed the President’s directive.

He said while holding the portfolio of finance minister, he was summoned to a meeting chaired by the President at State House, Nakasero on October 15, 2007. In the meeting, he said a request was made to give the hotel $3m, which he did not support.

Omach said the meeting subsequently agreed to invest $1.5m in the hotel and that the President directed that the decision be implemented.

He said the President in a letter dated October 26, 2007 directed the release of $1.3m.

The letter, Omach said, was received by the then finance minister, Dr. Ezra Suruma, who then sought the opinion of the justice minister following the view of the Auditor General that he could not issue a warrant of expenditure to a private company without the authority of Parliament.

Omach said on November 12, 2007, the Attorney General advised that the Government could provide equity financing to private companies subject to the usual requirements other than supplementary approval.

Musumba denied PAC accusations that he was answerable for influencing the construction of the road to Enkombe Apartments. He said the apartments neither belonged to him nor his relatives.

Musumba, however, admitted to writing to the works minister, proposing that he considers carrying out repairs on the 1km stretch of road.

Ministers Sam Kutesa (foreign affairs) and John Nasasira (works) present their responses today.

Four ministers deny CHOGM scam

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