December 19, 2014

Tumwebaze Tells Defence Permanent Secretary to Resign Over Railway Deal

Frank Tumwebaze, the presidency minister has advised the defense ministry permanent secretary Rosette Byengoma to resign for allegedly trying to blackmail the president.

No nonsense Kampala Minister Frank Tumwebaze.
No nonsense Kampala Minister Frank Tumwebaze.

Tumwebaze lost his cool on Thursday afternoon while appearing before the select committee of parliament, which is probing into the Standard gauge railway deal.

It all started after the committee led by its chair Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko, the Nakifuma county MP tasked Tumwebaze to defend himself on allegations that he pressured Byengoma into signing the Standard Gauge Railway contract with China Harbour Engineering and Construction Company Limited- CHEC.

While appearing before the committee two weeks ago, Byengoma told the committee that she received a phone from Tumwebaze pressurizing her to sign the deal in disregard of legal advice from the solicitor general.

But Tumwebaze has distanced himself from the allegations, saying it is unfair and an act of blackmail for a top civil servant to claim that she was pressurized into signing the MOU without any proof.

He claimed that, he invited Byengoma twice for meetings in vain and wondered how he could have pressurized her through phone calls.

According to Tumwebaze, Byengoma should have asked him to put his instructions into writing since influence peddling is illegal and criminal.

He instead accused Byengoma of ignoring the Solicitor General letter dated 18th April 2013 stopping her from signing an MOU with China Harbour Engineering and Construction Company Limited.

Tumwebaze presented to the committee the copy of the letter, which the solicitor general warned the defense Ministry against signing the memorandum without consulting the works ministry.

He defended the president’s involvement in the railway procurement exercise saying it is provided for under Article 99 of the Constitution which prescribes the executive powers of the President.

Tumwebaze, however said that the President’s directives do not tell civil servants or ministers to violet procurement provisions as prescribed in law.

The standard gauge railway contract became a subject of investigations after some MPs petitioned parliament citing flaws in the procurement procedures.

Initially government had signed a memorandum of understanding with China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation to undertake the standard gauge railway construction at the tune of UGX 12 trillion but was terminated under unclear circumstances.

As a result, China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation petitioned court but later withdraw the case saying it will wait for other opportunities.

One Wednesday, John Byabagambi, the state works minister told the select committee that, government terminated the MOU with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation because it provided for the upgrade of the existing line yet government wanted to construct a new Standard gauge railway.

Byabagambi explained that after the MOU was signed, President Museveni changed his mind saying the country needed an efficient and speedy standard gauge railway The cost of the standard gauge railway has since gone up from UGX 20 trillion to UGX 38.5 Trillion.

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