Defence ministry permanent secretary (PS), Rosette Byengoma has told the committee probing the $8b (sh22 trillion) standard gauge railway (SGR) contract that she signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) under duress.
By Joyce Namutebi
KAMPALA - Defence ministry permanent secretary (PS), Rosette Byengoma has told the committee probing the $8b (sh22 trillion) standard gauge railway (SGR) contract that she signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) under duress.
“We were pushed to sign before April 21, 2013,” Byengoma told the committee chaired by Kafeero Ssekitoleko.
Asked by committee member Maxwell Akora to explain, Byengoma told the committee that the Minister for Presidency, Frank Tumwebaze, pushed her to sign the MoU.
“I got a call from Tumwebaze. I was told to sign the MoU because it was delaying the process,” she said.
Tumwebaze could not be reached for comment. Kafeero told journalists after the meeting that they are going to write to Tumwebaze asking him to explain what happened.
The committee is examining circumstances that led to termination of an MoU between the Government and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) for upgrading the existing railway line from Kampala to Malaba.
The committee is also examining the budgetary implications of the contract signed with CHEC.
The committee, according to Kafeero, had invited Byengoma and other officials to explain circumstances under which they signed a contract, which is a mandate of the works and finance ministries.
Kafeero explained to journalists that the defence ministry had initiated procurement of CHEC and went ahead to sign an MoU with them. He said the company had been introduced to the ministry by President Yoweri Museveni.
Byengoma, who was flanked by Brig. Timothy Sabiiti, explained that there were inter-ministerial meetings under the chairmanship of the works ministry PS and directives from President’s office.
The MoU, she said, was signed on April 18, 2013. She noted that they had initial clearance from the Solicitor General (SG), but later they got another letter from the SG stopping them from signing the MoU, yet it had already been signed.
According to the MoU, a copy of which was seen by the New Vision, Uganda wanted to utilise UPDF engineers in the army to execute the project.
The project involved development of Kampala inland port at Bukasa on Lake Victoria, including a ship building facility, railway infrastructure including a station and other related facilities of the SGR from Kampala to Malaba with a spur to Bukasa port and from Tororo to Pakwach and Gulu to Nimule.
The project also involved rehabilitating, expansion and modernisation of UPDF barracks in Tororo and developing the barracks into a polytechnic for training UPDF engineers. The committee learnt that before signing the MoU, the Ministry of Defence had to get a no objection from Uganda Railways Corporation, but by the time they got the response, they had already signed the agreement.
Asked why the UPDF signed an MoU with CHEC and not CCECC, Sabiiti explained that when the President made the directive that the UPDF get involved in construction of the railway line, an infrastructure committee was set up.
''We were rushed into signing railway deal''