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Attorney General tasked to explain presidential directives on contracts

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The Opposition in Parliament has demanded an explanation from government on the arbitrary directives awarding contracts to various construction entities for construction of roads, schools and health facilities across the country.

This was made in a statement presented by the Shadow Minister for works and Transport, Hon Yusuf Nsibambi during plenary sitting on Thursday, 28 October 2021.

He said that President Yoweri Museveni is now initiating procurement needs, informally meeting service providers and subsequently issuing directives commanding government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

“He (President Museveni) issued about five arbitrary directives. Whereas the President enjoys executive authority under the Constitution, the same ought to be exercised judiciously and within confines of the law as provided under Article 9 (1) of the constitution,” he said.

Nsibambi cited some of the arbitrary directives including, a letter dated 15 May 2021 in which Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) was directed to enter and agreement with Zhongmei Engineering group on pre-financing agreement for construction of Kanoni-Misingi-Mityana Road (37 Km).

He further cited that in a letter dated 21 June 2021, the President directed UNRA to enter into an agreement with China Communication Construction Company on pre-financing arrangement for construction of Pakwach-Karuma Road, Pakwach Bridge, Kisubi-Nakawuka-Natete Road, Nakawuka-Kasange-Mpigi Road, Nakawuka-Mawugulu-Nanziga-Maya Road, Kasange-Buwaya Road, and Nakasero-Northern Bypass VVIP Road.

“The processes, cycle and activities of procurement and disposal of public assets in Uganda are governed by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Act. Non-compliance of the PPDA Act and regulations made thereunder by any person whether public servant or not attracts criminal action or sanctions and in some cases civil liability,” said Nsibambi.

He added that the directive from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health to all Local Governments to surrender and prepare the ground for the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) brigade to take over construction works for schools and health facilities falls short on the required legal procurement standards.

“The law clearly guides that procurement processes do not commence with identification and zoning out a sole contractor where a competitive procurement was available but suffocated,” Nsibambi said.

He urged the Ministers of; Works and Transport, Health and Education to adhere to the provisions of the law under the Constitution, PPDA, Act and Public Finance Management Act, instead of the presidential directive.

He also called on the Minister of Health to recall and cancel the letter written by the ministry’s permanent secretary to all local governments on the UPDF.

“This House should move to advise the President to stop that arbitrary conduct,” Nsibambi said.

The Leader of the Opposition, Hon Mathias Mpuuga, said that the ministries concerned should clarify the laws on pre-financing in regard to the Presidential directives.

“Pre-financing is indirect borrowing and without parliamentary approval. It is a public debt to which we would like the finance minister to come and explain whether he is privy to the arrangement and its implications to the law,” said Mpuuga.

He added that as a result of the arbitrary directives by the President, the World Bank has raised concerns and has threatened to cancel funding.

Deputy Speaker Anita Among directed the Attorney General to provide a statement on the presidential directives. “Give us a law that backs up the presidential directives. We need this on Wednesday,” she said.

She also clarified that the presidential directives are not final and that the burden to ensure that the right procedures are followed lies with the technical people.

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