Silent war in Parliament over Dott services contract
A silent war is raging between two Parliamentary oversight committees with the chairpersons of the committees accusing each other of interfering in their work.
Angeline Osegge, the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is said to have clashed with Abdul Katuntu who chairs the Committee on Statutory and State Enterprises (COSASE) over the reinstatement of Dott Services Ltd to rehabilitate the Nakalama -Tirinyi – Mbale road.
The construction company was awarded the contract to rehabilitate the 102km road in February 2015 and was expected to complete it by June 2017. However, a month to the expiry of the contract, it emerged that only 19.09 percent of the planned works had been completed, prompting Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to terminate the contract.
This resulted into a litigation battle that got Museveni issuing a directive on January 18 for the reinstatement of Dott Services’ contract. In his letter to UNRA, Museveni said that much as he was incensed by the shoddy works on the road, Dott Services is a big company.
“Dott services is a big company worth $100m and is not just in road construction but also in electricity generation even in Uganda,” Museveni wrote, citing the Nyagak mini hydro dam and other projects in India and Tanzania.
“Some flexibility does not in any way undermine our anti-corruption efforts, the same way our reconciliation efforts did not undermine our robust war against extra judicial killings in Uganda that had accounted for 800,000 Ugandans killed in those massacres,” Museveni wrote.
A week later, Osegge penned a separate letter warning UNRA against engaging Dott Services until her committee has concluded its investigations
The FDC woman’s letter ignited a war at Parliament that pitted her against her FDC colleague, Bugweri MP Abdul Katuntu.
Katuntu telephoned Osegge asking her why she wrote to UNRA executive director Allen Kagina over the matter yet UNRA is among the government entities that fall under the ambit of COSASE.
On February 7, Kagina wrote to Osegge telling her that following Museveni’s directive and the Attorney General William Byaruhanga’s guidance, the roads body had moved several steps towards reinstating the contractor.
“The process of reinstating Dott Services on Nakalama-Tirinyi-Mbale road is in advanced stages and we request that we are urgently guided on how to proceed with the directive of the PAC in view the president’s directive and guidance of the Attorney General,” Kagina wrote.
In the midst of the heat, Osegge, on February 8 wrote in response to Kagina’s letter telling her that she had left the matter for the Katuntu committee.
“I am made to understand that COSASE has been and is still handling the same issue of Dott Services Ltd as a contractor for the rehabilitation of the Nakalama-Tirinyi-Mbale road. Being a direct responsibility of COSASE, I hereby inform you that let this matter be followed up and guided by COSASE,” Osegge wrote.
Osegge’s letter did not save her from Kadaga’s reprimand that came in a February 14 letter in which the Speaker chided Osegge for going into an area that is not hers.
“I am concerned that this particular issue concerning Dott Services is clearly outside PAC [Central Government] mandate. My understanding is that this issue is within the realm of COSASE,” Kadaga wrote.
In the same letter, Kadaga informed Osegge that she had advised UNRA to proceed with its engagements with Dott Services, and also warned her against writing any other government entities without her (Kadaga) authorisation.
“I would further advise that in future, you consult my office prior to writing to MDAs [Ministries, departments and agencies], especially when writing on behalf of the Parliament of Uganda,” Kadaga stated.
She also wrote another letter to Kagina advising her to carry on with the reinstatement of Dott Services’ contract.
“After due considerations of all the issues pertaining to this matter, I advise that you go ahead with the steps you have taken so far regarding the execution of the contract in question in line with [Museveni’s] directive as we await the Auditor General’s report,” Kadaga wrote to Kagina.
Kadaga’s intervention was misinterpreted by some MPs but director of communications and public affairs at Parliament, Chris Obore said Kadaga acted within her mandate.
“PAC is doing a delegated duty by the Speaker of Parliament and therefore she was right to guide the chairperson of the committee,” Obore said.
“MPs from eastern Uganda and their constituents are demonstrating over the poor state of Nakalama-Tirinyi-Mbale road, and, the Speaker’s decision to have the works start as soon as possible is to meet the needs of the people irrespective of the procurement wars,” Obore said .
On March 7, MPs Francis Gonahansa (Kabweri), David Abala (Ngora), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya) and Silas Aogon (Kumi Municipality) threatened to call for protests should UNRA fail to resume works on the road.
This comes against the backdrop of alleged bribery schemes within Parliament involving two firms competing to be awarded the contract.
Because the 9th Parliament had recommended for the blacklisting of Dott Services following a petition by former Tororo MP Geoffrey Ekanya based on the quality of work the company did on the Tororo-Mbale-Soroti road, the construction firm is allegedly trying to win the hearts of the 10th Parliament MPs.
According to MPs that were part of the Parliament of Uganda team to the East African Community (EAC) games in Dar-es-Salam in December last year, the firm facilitated some of their colleagues including accommodating them at the luxurious Serena Dar-es-Salam Hotel.
This was after a group of MPs led by Aruu’s Samuel Odonga Otto rejected the firm’s offer to sponsor the Ugandan team.
Dott Services had provided branded jerseys but the Otto group threatened not to play for the Ugandan team if Parliament was not willing to provide jerseys without the Dott Services logo.
As the MPs fought, UNRA on March 23 reinstated Dott Services contract at almost double the initial cost. The new contract is worth Shs 135.3m and will last for 25 months.