Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) were left in shock after learning that the Prime Minister and a senior minister ordered the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) officials to offer a Shs15bn contract for clearing bushes.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance are accused of issuing express orders to Naads to directly procure Horyal Company Limited to clear bushes for Atiak sugarcane factory in which government is a minority shareholder with 40 percent shares.
At least 15,000 acres of bush land in the district of Lamwo were cleared for the planting of sugarcane.
As a follow-up on the Auditor General’s report on the agency’s financial statements for Financial Year 2021-2022, Cosase Committee members grilled officials from the Naads Secretariat headed by Samuel Mugasi, the Executive Director, on August 09.
Naads Head of Procurement Eunice Katto told MPs that the direct procurement of Horyal Company Limited was due to the fact that it was a rainy season. That the open bidding policy would have been long and taken a lot of time.
Katto added that there was also a Memorandum of Understanding between Horyal and the women groups to provide labour.”
But Cosase lead counsel Ronald Ndyomugenyi, the independent MP representing Rukiga County, punched holes in Katto’s explanation, saying rain did not give Naads a blank cheque to violate the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act which provides for open bidding for a deal of such an amount.
Ndyomugyenyi asked: “Are those the reasons you can give for a direct procurement? What are the conditions in the PPDA Act for direct procurements?”
Bumali Mpindi, the Independent MP representing Persons with Disabilities, questioned the amount of money spent on bush clearing.
Mpindi asked: “What kind of bush clearing is this? Is it different from others? Why didn’t you subject it to bidding to allow other companies to participate? Your justification for direct procurement is lacking.”
It was not long before Naads ED spilled the beans, revealing that the direct procurement of the company was meant to respect an order from the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development ordering the agency to hire the company.
That the Minister had used his letter to make it clear that Naads had no option but to contract Horyal and offer it the money needed for clearing the bush as part of the completion phase of the sugarcane out growers scheme.
He also claimed that there had been an earlier letter from the Prime Minister, ordering the direct procurement of Horyal.
“The first letter was from the Prime Minister requesting us to work with Horyal and then another one in 2018, which talks about financing of sugar cane project,” Mugasi revealed.
It should be remembered that a few weeks ago, Ugandans were left in shock after a government ministry used Shs400m to transport documents from Kampala to Entebbe. The scandal at the ministry almost turned bloody, with an official nearly killing a colleague for blocking his multi-billion corruption deal. (See Details Here and There).
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