The Executive Director of Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) Dr. Patrick Bitonder Birungi is in hot soup, after a whistle blower dragged him to two Anti-Corruption bodies.
UDC is an investment institution established as a wholly-owned government entity with the mandate to facilitate the industrial and economic development of Uganda through the establishment of a subsidiary and associated companies, public-private partnerships, research, financing, and management of entities that promote industrial development.
In a letter dated 18th, March.2021 and received by both the State House Anti-Corruption unit headed by Lt.Col.Edith Nakalema, and the Inspectorate of Government (IG) on 6th April 2021, the petitioner appeals for investigation into Dr.Birungi-led UDC and its activities, citing allegations of Corruption and Abuse of office.
Through his lawyers of M/s Kiiza & Co. Advocates, the petitioner writes to the ACU and IGG, that there has been mismanagement of Government Funds by the Top Officials at the Corporation.
‘’Reference is made to the above wherein we act for and on behalf of ‘’our client’’ Mr.Lukooki John Magezi and on whose instructions we pray that you investigate the financial impropriety of the Executive Director of Uganda Development Corporation. Mr Patrick Birungi has greatly abused office, mismanaged, exhibited incompetence, Discrimination and nepotism among other vices especially at the Soroti Fruit Factory’’, reads in part the petition.
The petitioner cited the Shs 1.2 Billion spent on constructing tarmac roads within the Soroti fruit factory which are not accounted for, citing alleged unobstructed gross mismanagement of the Corporation resources where prejudice, nepotism, unfairness and abuse of office are reportedly eating up the institution.
Other claims include inflating the prices of fruits supplied at the Soroti Juice Factory and poor performances at other UDC Manned Institutions like Kiira Motors Corporation, Soroti Fruit Processing Factory and the new start-up; Uganda National Airlines Company.
The petitioner also reported to Nakalema that following the three year term expiry of the Board headed by Hamu Mugenyi in October 2020, Birungi and his team has been frustrating the process to seek a new appointment of the Board over unknown reasons.
‘’We humbly pray that your team investigate Mr. Patrick Birungi’s conduct at Uganda Development Corporation and other entities under his charge’’, adds the petition.
This comes at a time when the Auditor General John Muwanga’s report for the period ended June 2020 pinned UDC on diverting development funds to operations.
The Auditor General discovered that Shs60b, which had been provided including balance brought forward from the preceding year, only Shs48.1b was spent, which represented an adjustment level of 79 per cent.
‘’Because of this, there was no progress in the implementation of projects such as Luweero Fruit Factory, Zombo Tea Factory and Moroto Cement Factory despite providing a combined funding of Shs6.4b”Reads a report from the auditor general.
It should be remembered that also the report of the Office of the Auditor General for December 2019 that scrutinized the performance of government corporations and entities, indicated UDC made losses of Shs17 billion. The progress of many other projects under UDC during Birungi’s tenure has been dormant.
UDC registered several successes in promoting local industrial development in the 1950s and 1960s and was augmented with the addition of newly nationalized industries in the early 1970s.
Some sources revealed to this reporter that President Museveni had earlier reportedly ordered for the immediate investigations into Dr. Birungi’s suspected misdemeanor on the misuse of the agency funds, an allegation we could not verify independently.
Efforts to get Mr.Birungi were futile by press time.
While leading a walk against corruption in December 2019, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said: “Corrupt people are parasites. They are parasites because they get wealth which they did not earn. Uganda is ranked the 149th least-corrupt country in the world, according to the 2018 Transparency International report.