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Spotlight: AfDB suspends Shs570bn Busega-Mpigi expressway over corruption in UNRA

Top UNRA bosses connived with Chinese firm in the procurement process

SPOTLIGHT–The African Development Bank (AfDB) has reversed the procurement process for Busega–Mpigi expressway, citing corruption by senior Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) officials in the award of the contract.

AfDB, a continental bank that works to reduce poverty and improve living conditions in Africa, acted following a complaint by a whistle-blower who accused top officials at UNRA of fraudulent dealings in the procurement process for the project’s contractor.

AfDB are the financiers of the Shs576 billion project.

The road construction project covers a total of 63kms between Busega on the outskirts of Kampala and Mpigi along the Kampala – Masaka highway.

In a May 17 letter to UNRA’s executive director Allen Kagina, the AfDB country manager Kennedy Mbekeani declined to give UNRA the much needed nod of approval to award the contract to China
Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway 19th Bureau Group Co Ltd (CCECC &CRGC).

According to the whistleblower, despite being the highest bidder with a bid worth Shs534 billionn, CCECC & CRGC is favoured by UNRA to take the contract.

This, according to the whistle blower, could cost the taxpayer an excess of Shs143.3 billion.

Acting on the whistle blower’s information contained in various petitions to the Ministers for Works and Transport plus that of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, AfDB reviewed UNRA’s bid evaluation report.

The review discovered some flaws in the bid evaluation report that UNRA had sent to AfDB for a certificate of no objection for CCECC & CRGC joint bid.

Review report

According to its review report, AfDB noted that UNRA had wrongly eliminated China Gezhouna Group Co. Ltd, AlNaboodah Contracting Co. LLC and CMC – Advent Busega Joint Venture.

The fifth bidder, JMC projects (India) Ltd, AfDB noted, should have been disqualified at the preliminary stages.

The bank, therefore, asked UNRA to submit a revised bid evaluation report for further review.

“Your urgent action and response will be greatly appreciated considering the time it has taken to reach this stage. Kindly note that you are required to ensure that all bids are valid until the procurement process is completed,” Mbekeani’s letter to Kagina partly reads.

However, UNRA spokesperson Mark Ssali has refuted the claims that the multi-billion project has been awarded to any of the bidders, saying the evaluation process was still on-going.

“Yes, the letter was received I am told. There have been no awards yet. The evaluation process is still ongoing,” Ssali said.

In April last year, a whistleblower addressed a lengthy document to President Museveni, the Inspectorate of Government and Parliament, listing several contentious issues for public oversight agencies to investigate and address.

Enter IGG

Meanwhile, the whistle blower a fortnight ago wrote to asking her to investigate the alleged fraud in the procurement process for the project.

The June 21 petition highlights how the delayed procurement process is going to cause the government a financial loss.

“Apart from the delayed procurement process even when Uganda is already paying the interest on the loan of Shs 576bn from African Development Bank (AfDB), there is a huge financial loss of Shs143.2 billion that the country is about to make as it is clear that UNRA is set to award the 4th lowest evaluated bidder, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway 19th Bureau Group Co Ltd (CCECC & CRGC),” the whistle-blower wrote.

The whistleblower contends that the contract should be awarded to lowest bidder whose bid is worth Shs390 billion as per the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) Act.

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