In 2011, when president Museveni appointed Eng. Abraham Byandala as Minister of Works and Transport, it was an elevation that called for jubilation for the representative of the people of Katikamu County North.
However, little did Eng Byandala know that four years down the road his appointment to the hitherto ‘sensitive ministry’ that handles trillions for road construction would lead him to Luzira Prison.
So, yesterday the Anti-corruption Court, after hearing charges ranging from two counts of abuse of office, disobeying lawful orders and influence-peddling, sent Eng Byandala on remand to Luzira Prison, a few hours after his arrest by agents from the Inspectorate of Government (IGG).
Byandala, together with the former Ag Executive Director of the Uganda National Roads Authority(UNRA) Eng Ssebugga Kimeze; Joe Ssemugoma, a former UNRA Acting Director of Finance and Administration),Marvin Baryaruha, (former UNRA legal counsel), Apollo Ssenkeeto(businessman) and Isaac Mugote, a former banker with Housing Finance Bank, were remanded till August 11.
This follows the way he handled the Mukono- Kyetume- Katosi-Nyenga road contract when he served as the Minister of Works and Transport at a time the government reportedly lost at least shs24bn in the now controversial contract, awarded to Eutaw Construction Company.
It is said that Byandala wrote a letter to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) asking them to award the contract to Eutaw before a complete due diligence was carried out.
Eutaw, purporting to be based in America, secured the contract and was paid Shs24 billion even before thorough investigations were carried out to establish the credibility of the company.
Even when he was under fire, with claims that Eutaw was non-existent, Minister Byandala insisted that the company was genuine and that his predecessor John Nasasira had paid a visit to its headquarters in 2011.
He also reportedly said the company showed key documents that proved its authenticity, contrary to investigations by the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Parliament and the Police.
Mysterious as it was, Eutaw procured the Katosi road deal which according to the IGG and Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA), should have been advertised. The IGG and PPDA also reportedly discovered that the company (Eutaw) had forged insurance bonds (rather than bank guarantees) to dupe UNRA officials into giving them the money.
Meanwhile, when the procurement process began, a number of firms competed for the lucrative construction deal and Eutaw Construction Company emerged the ‘best evaluated bidder’.
But before the road works gained momentum, the Ministry of Finance and Planning Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi wrote to Byandala, indicating that he had received reports that there was fraud in the way Eutaw had procured the Katosi road project.
On July 9, Muhakanizi also wrote to the IGG asking for urgent investigations to establish the truth regarding the entire procurement process. In her investigations the IGG Lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja and her team, among other things, probed the circumstances under which Eutaw had been paid the Shs24 billion.
Subsequently, it appears she uncovered some irregularities and issued a report in nine days, ordering the project halted, with protestation against Eutaw’s decision to sub contract, 100 per cent, the construction of the road to a Chinese company, Chongqing Construction. The IGG also queried how UNRA had paid out the Shs 24 billion (through Housing Finance Bank) without sufficient due diligence.
For instance, the IGG noted that then Ag Executive Director Eng Ssebuga Kimeze was on leave but sanctioned the payment to EUTAW’S account in January 2014, ‘well knowing that the due diligence was to be done in February 2014’.
On the spot was Eng Abraham Byandala, the political head at the works ministry, who had the desire to have the Katosi project delivered expeditiously by 2016, ostensibly to popularize government ahead of the general elections next year.
According to a special investigations report of the police, on noticing discrepancies on the Eutaw file, the UNRA Executive Director reportedly notified Eng Byandala, who was directly supervising the project.
Unfortunately, it was a little late to rectify the mess, the reason Eng Byandala, the current Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the President, is now behind bars together with some of the UNRA officials who handled the project.
Before joining elective politics as the legislature for Katikamu North, Eng. Byandala had served at the then Kampala Capital City (KCC) as chief engineer but presided over the expansion of potholes. However, before thinking of joining politics, Byandala was implicated in a corruption report at KCC and by deciding to join National Resistance Movement (NRM) party as its flag bearer for Katikamu North where he dislodged Amb. James Kinobe, Byandala was trying to get a soft landing and indeed, his star rose when he was elected chairman of the physical infrastructure in the 8th Parliament.
It is also known that while at the committee, as its chairperson, Byandala silently opened a war on the then Works and Transport Minister Eng. John Nasasira where he allegedly would use his committee powers to ridicule and expose Nasasira and team as a failed group at the Ministry of Works. It is based on the above fact that when the Mukono-Katosi road saga started, Byandala pointed his fingers at Nasasira.
Another person whom Byandala underestimated was the Presidency Minister and KCCA, Frank Tumwebaze, Byandala remained a true an African mourner who accuses anybody when death strikes a member of a family and goes around accusing each and everyone around as responsble and this is the same scenario Eng. Byandala was in when he pointed fingers at Tumwebaze.
Yes, the truth on Mukono-Katosi aren’t yet out to know who did what or influenced but what has befallen Byandala looks like an end of road in his career as a politician.