Kasaija On Spot Over New PPDA Boss
New controversy is shrouding circumstances under which Finance Minister Matia Kasaija is trying to overturn the appointment of Eng.Dr. Anania Mbabazi as new Executive Director of Public Procurement
& Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA).
PPDA oversees all public procurements and disposal policies, principles and practices in Uganda.
The entity also monitors and reports on the performance of the public procurement and disposal systems and advises on desirable changes.
On February 1st, after rigorous interviews conducted by Dama consultants, a reputable human resource recruiting agency and PPDA board, Dr. Mbabazi emerged the best candidate.
The board immediately appointed Mbabazi as the authority’s new executive director, replacing Cornelia Sabiiti whose term of office is expiring this month.
Red Pepper has seen Mbabazi’s appointment letter signed by PPDA board chairman Simeon Wanyama. The letter is dated February 01, 2017.
According to the letter, Mbabazi was supposed to accept the terms and conditions in writing before February 07, a condition he has duly abided to.
According to PPDA Act, 2003, the “Board shall appoint an Executive Director on contract for three years, renewable for only one further term, and on terms and conditions to be specified in his or her
instrument of appointment.”
The appointment letter indicates the new PPDA boss will earn Shs24m per month, on top of other perks stated in the employment contract.
However, in a controversial twist of events, Kasaija has ordered the Board Chairperson PPDA to rescind the appointment of Mbabazi.
In a letter dated February 15, Kasaija said his decision to halt Mbabazi appointment was based on “very serious issues of real, potential and substantial conflict of interest and misconduct regarding the chosen individual, since in his earlier dealings he has been involved in various government procurement/contract matters.”
The Minister cited a report by Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) which “found him (Anania) culpable for conflict of interest and serious misconduct as the project Manager of the Kiryandongo-Karuma-Kamdini road rehabilitation project.
However, new details emerging indicate there are no findings by any mandated authority in Uganda implicating Mbabazi in shaddy dealings as alleged.
Mbabazi was project manager for ILISO Consulting (Pty) Limited, a company contracted by UNRA to oversee the project that was being undertaken by CCCC, a Chinese construction firm.
The then UNRA boss James Okiror accused Dr. Mbabazi of “usurping the powers of other staff on site in contravention to the allocated task schedules in the contract.”
Okiror further protested Dr Anania’s conduct, saying he “signed for money (Shs171m) from the contractor purportedly for the accommodation of staff yet it was for his own benefit in contravention of Clause 37.4 of the General Conditions of the Contract.”
In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Mbabazi states that the company requisitioned for this money and the money was received by the company and was properly documented.
“When UNRA rejected the requisition procedure the whole amount was refunded and payment was thereafter made under a different procedure. This report is available to auhtorised officers of government. If the minister based his instruction on such “serious matters” is the issue I’m contesting.’
He said most road contracts provide for housing for consultant’s staff under item called “Engineers Accommodation and attendance”.
He revealed the contractor is required to provide actual houses. “And this is what I demanded from the Kamudini project.
The contractor refused to provide the houses and was supported by the UNRA team (Eng Okiror was the ED then). The second option was for the consultant to rent the houses and send an invoice monthly to the contractor.
The amount to be billed by the consultant was the big question and it took almost a year to agree on this rate,” he said.
“In the meantime the contractor demanded his payment that ranged from Shs7.5M to Shs9.4M per house monthly in kamdini. The total bill item was for 396 house-months (for the project duration of 24 months) and the total amount payable to the contractor was Shs2.71bn.”
“In the meantime the consultant rented houses for its staff. At the same time the Resident Engineer negotiated quietly with the contractor and started receiving money from the contractor without knowledge of the head office and the project manager/authorised representative.
When I got wind of this, I fired the Resident Engineer.” Mbabazi said the UNRA team was not happy with this and wrote to his company removing him as the project manager/authorised representative
which he protested and even escalated the matter to arbitration.
“My colleagues in South Africa advised that we settle the matter through negotiation. Negotiations were held and in the interest of peace and project, we were asked to replace the project manager and authorised representative.”
“We were also forced to accept that the contractor pays the amount for accommodation to the consultant’s staff directly (a practice that can compromise staff) and the rate was also dictated by UNRA. It should be noted that payment for this item is done under option 2 on many other projects; reconciliation of the account was done and the matter settled. The company, leave alone Anania, does not owe any money to UNRA for this item.”
He said the accusation is that Anania’s company was paid Shs171M for housing the project staff; about 20 of them over a period of one year.
“Eng. Okiror quarried the payment procedure and the money was paid back to) but under protest. The money was then paid to the project staff directly through another procedure which UNRA preferred. I did not prefer this procedure hence the argument. So where is the crime here?”
Mbabazi said the minister should have followed procedure in addressing his grievances since there are a number of avenues to address the concerns.
“Once the complaint is submitted to the relevant department, the relevant department investigates and makes a decision. In the present case the minister just directed my supervisor not to allow me in the
office. I am challenging that. How come the hand shake people; some of whom are in his ministry are still sitting in their offices and defending themselves from there.”
“I should also have been allowed to sit on my chair and any accusation would be handled in accordance with the laid down procedures.”
Mbabazi warned that Kasaija is likely to end up like former works minister, Abraham Byandala if he continues making flimsy directives. Byandala is on trial in court over influence peddling.
“Members you recall that Byandala is being charged for writing such directives. The Hon Minister, if he received a complaint, he is expected to have forwarded it to the relevant department for action.
This department would investigate and take action. I presume I would be given a chance to defend myself.”
It has merged some top government officials are trying to ring-fence the office for certain individuals.
Among them include Dr. Angela Kiryabwire, the former UNRA board chairperson who trailed in the interviews and Dr. Aloysious Byaruhanga, Kasaija’s friend from Masindi district.
A few years ago, Mbabazi was headed-hunted alongside with Allen Kagina for the UNRA executive director job before the latter was appointed but President Yoweri Museveni preferred Kagina.
KASAIJA GAFFE AT FINACE
Kasaija, 74, is not new to controversies! Late last year, he was embroiled in a fight with his junior, Evelyn Anite over the appointment of new board chairperson of Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL).
The two Ministers Matia Kasaija and Evelyn Anite, the State Minister for Privatisation and Investment, in a space of only two days, wrote to two different people, informing them of being appointed to chair
the UEGCL board.
Kasaija on November 8, 2016 appointed Eng. Frank Katusiime as the board chairperson replacing Eng. Stephen Isabalijja, who was appointed Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Energy.
Interestingly, in the same week, on November 11, 2016, Anite, a recipient of Minister Kasaija’s earlier communication, wrote to Eng. Proscovia M. Njuki informing her of her appointment as a new board
chairperson replacing Eng. Isabalijja.
Surprisingly, Anite emerged victorious, Kaisaija withdrew Katusiime and Eng. Njuki was named UECDL boss.