By Kiganda Ssonko
FORMER fish suppliers of the liquidated Uganda Marine Products, a fish processing and export firm, have appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to help them get their money.
The over 200 suppliers are demanding sh750m that the firm, which was sold off in December, owed them before it was put under receivership in 2007 for defaulting on a $945,000 (about sh1.84b) loan from the East African Development Bank (EADB).
The receivers, Mungereza & Kariisa (an audit firm), sold the firm to Super Fish at $1.3m (sh2.5b).
Ponsiano Lwakataka, the chairman of the Uganda Integrated Fish Suppliers Association, said the receivers were not cooperating with creditors about their payments.
â€œWe request President Museveni to come to our rescue because it is over two years since the company closed, but we have not been paid any money.
â€œThe company receivers dodge us whenever we call or go to them.â€
Lwakataka said the sh750m debt accumulated over a six-month period during which they supplied over 220 tonnes of fish to the firm before it was put under receivership.
â€œwe are worried because our fate as creditors is not known as we were not catered for in the sales agreement to Super Fish Limited,â€ he said.
â€œThe receivers and EADB owe us an explanation,â€ Lwakataka added.
The firm was jointly owned by Yogesh Grover, Uganda Development Bank as the biggest shareholder, Ephraim Makubuya Kigozi and May Kigozi as minority shareholders.
Lwakataka said before being sold to Super Fish, the 14-year-old factory located on Gayaza Road was manufacturing ice.
He said it had the capacity to make 30 tonnes of ice flakes daily and made over sh300m during the two years under receivership.
"Besides ice making, the receivers sold the six companyâ€™s used trucks for about sh50m, withdrew sh20m from the company account in Cairo Bank and still no creditor was paid. When we call Mungereza, he tells us he has not sold the company yet there is evidence for it," Lwakataka said while displaying the sales agreement.
Among the top creditors include Lwakataka himself who is demanding sh159m, Allan Mayombwe sh179m, Juliet Katsimba sh70m, Phillip Mulindwa sh40m, Paul Musonera sh16m, Fulgenti Ssemukasa sh23m, Bosco Lumumba sh22m, Rose Ntamala sh2m, Issa Ssekanaabi sh22m, and Hajji Katende sh1.9m among others.
"Our assets like houses and land are in danger because we owe banks, money lenders and fishermen huge sums. We want the Government and other stakeholders to rescue us because the receiver seems not bothered," Lwakataka explained.
When contacted Fulgence Mungereza said the company was sold on credit and once the buyer pays fully, they would settle first the secured creditors who include UDB and EADB which the firm owed huge loans.
â€œLegally, in the scenario of receivership, once the company is sold, priority of payment goes to clearing costs of receivership, taxes and secured creditors which we shall do once full payment is done some months ahead. We can only pay those complainants using surplus amount which I highly doubt given the banksâ€™ loan size and the selling price,â€ Mungereza said.
He advised the creditors to liaise with the local and international police to look for Yogesh Grover whom he said left Uganda after defrauding very many people and institutions including banks to the tune of over sh10bn.