The Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) has termed the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) as an ‘extremely sick’ institution and called for ‘close supervision’ over all its activities by the Parliament and the Executive.
The 184-page COSASE report that is due to be tabled in Parliament has so far covered six state agencies namely: UNRA, the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC); the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC); the National Forestry Authority (NFA); the National Housing and Construction Company (NHCC) and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
Interestingly, all the institutions that have been examined are wobbly, rife with corruption and incompetent staff, the committee chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu notes.
‘For the period under review, this entity (UNRA) can be described as extremely sick. Whatever can go wrong in an institution indeed went wrong in UNRA. Fraud coupled with incompetency was the order of the day. Any achievement was more of an accident than deliberate,’ COSASE, which was reviewing the Auditor General’s reports for 2013/14 and 2014 /15, wrote to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, about the entity that is headed by Allen Kagina.
UNRA, the roads agency that currently receives over three trillion shillings from government, is being pinned for among other omissions, awarding contracts before appointing Consultants and also for appointing incompetent Consultants, a development the MPs say has led to the mismanagement of almost all projects undertaken by the roads agency.
Other irregularities cited in UNRA involve procurement, compensation of Projects Affected Persons (PAP); payments made to non – contracting parties and poor corporate governance including inadequate planning.
‘Madam Speaker, this was the scandal of the year. A sum of 47, 738, 040, 619 (Forty seven, billion, seven hundred and thirty eight million, forty thousand and six hundred nineteen shillings) was advanced to five Chinese firms as compensation to Projects Affected Persons … they did not … the firms put the funds to their own use,’ the MPs report.
Another thorny issue was the procurement process used for the 51.4 kilometre US$480 million Entebbe-Kampala Express Highway, where a kilometer was valued at US$9.3 million, despite the bid for the construction works being ‘unsolicited’.
The committee also makes inference to among other thorny issues, the recently-caved in 100km Mbale-Tirinyi road, saying the contractor was given designs for only 10 per cent (10kms) of the construction works.
COSASE also faults the Uganda Police for lackluster approaches in investigating and prosecuting those cited in unscrupulous undertakings in the state agencies and recommends that the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) work closely with the police force (CIID) to bring the culprits to book.
‘It is the committee’s recommendation that the Uganda Police should be more vigilant and act upon the information unearthed which is of a criminal nature,’ the committee members write in the report.
The committee also noted that it managed to recover ‘billions of shillings that had been siphoned out of the country’ and recommended that all other monies lost dubiously be recovered before the law is invited to take its course.
Early last year a Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Yoweri Museveni, and headed by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire unearthed a lot of rot in UNRA, reporting that about Shs4 trillion had been lost in shoddy deals at the roads agency.
Prior to Lady Justice Bamugemereire’s findings, four top managers at UNRA including then Acting Executive Director Eng. Ssebugga Kimeze had been sent packing for allegedly awarding the 74-km Mukono- Katosi road to a shadowy company, Eutaw. The then Minister of Works Eng. James Abraham Byandala was also cited in the scam in which the ghost company was paid Shs24.7 billion for no work done.