Kaloli Ssemogerere left Entebbe on Thursday 14 August 2014, he arrived in New York on August 20
UNRA Lawyer Kaloli Semwogerere cuts a pensive figure during his appearance before COSASE. Photo by Miriam Namutebi
MPs were on Thursday stunned to discover that it took former Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) external lawyer Kaloli Ssemogerere six days to fly from Entebbe to New York instead of the usual 20 hours.
Ssemogerere was contracted by UNRA and paid sh58m to travel to the USA to do due diligence on Eutaw, a company that was contracted to construct Katosi-Mukono road.
Scrutinizing his travel documents, the MPs on Parliament's committee on Commissions, State Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) discovered that although Ssemogerere left Entebbe on Thursday 14 August 2014, he arrived in New York on August 20.
"Mr. Chairman, the documents I have indicate that it took him six days to arrive in New York. How is this possible?" MP Michael Tusiime asked.
Explaining the time lag, Ssemogerere amused members when he said he travelled to Nairobi, and then rested since it was a weekend. He then went to London, in one of the libraries to read about engineering.
"I left Entebbe on a weekend, spent three days in Nairobi because I could not travel on a weekend. I proceeded to London to read about the subject matter since I had so many questions about the subject matter…...." But before he could proceed, the MPs ordered him to stop saying he was wasting time.
Committee chairman Abdul Katuntu then turned the heat on the then acting executive director Ssebugga Kimeze to explain why the Authority contracted Ssemogerere and why they never used the services of Uganda's Embassy in the USA to do due diligence on the company.
"You mean you could not send one of your staff to do the work? Secondly why didn't you use the Embassy?" Katuntu asked.
The committee is currently investigating circumstances under which Eutaw was awarded the contract to expand the road.
Kimeze said most of the staff was incapable and others were busy.
"We wanted someone who was knowledgeable about the geography of the USA. When I asked the legal counsel (Baryaruha), he said he was not able to do that job. Let's have an independent third party to do that work," he said.
The MPs also grilled Ssemogerere over his travels and demanded to know why he never represented a report when he returned.
Although Ssemogerere insisted that he presented the reports to UNRA, all the four former executive directors including the current boss Allen Kagina denied ever receiving a copy of the reports.
Ssemogerere though stunned members when he said he has never been paid for the work.
"I have never been paid. The money that was given to me was expended and I have a report," he said.
Meanwhile, the committee barred former Works Minister Abraham Byandala from commenting or raising questions on issues concerning the construction of Katosi-Mukono Road.
Although Byandala is among the implicated individuals and currently in court over the deal, he has been vocal in questioning UNRA officials or commenting on the matter.
While grilling Ssemogerere, Byandala a member of the committee tried to explain to the committee some of the issues. He was shocked when Katuntu asked him not to.
"Hon Byandala is a concerned party. I advise you to disqualify yourself. Let your colleagues handle it," Katuntu said as Byandala looked on.
Other officials implicated in the scam that resulted into a loss of billions of shillings are Ssebbugga, former director finance Joseph Ssemugoma, Marvin Baryaruha and others. Kimeze, Ssemugoma and Baryaruha were also on the committee.
The team led by the executive director Allen Kagina were appearing before the committee to brief members on the status of 74km Mukono-Katosi Road project.