Rukutana: SGS contract can’t be terminated

The Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana has told Parliament that government has failed to find evidence for the termination of the mandatory motor vehicle inspection awarded to a Swedish company, Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS).

The company was engaged by government in March 2015 to carry out mandatory motor vehicle inspection with an aim of improving road safety and reduce road accidents caused by vehicles in dangerous mechanical condition.

Rukutana told Parliament on Wednesday that after the Attorney General’s scrutiny of both the majority and minority reports released in February by Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure committee, government has found no ground for the termination of the SGS contract.

In August last year, Parliament instituted an investigation that produced two reports – the majority a suspension of the contract while the minority report recommended for its cancellation.

Rukutana said the allegations alluded to in the minority report are baseless, and fall short of evidence to warrant cancellation of the contract.

“The basis to terminate the contract because of delayed payment was waived by the Ministry of Works and Transport. That ground is therefore no longer available in the Ministry of Works and therefore to the government because the money was received albeit late. So we can’t rely on that as a basis for termination of the contract,” Rukutana said.

Rukutana also short down bribery allegations cited in the minority report such as an all expenses paid trip to South Africa that some officials at the Ministry of Works took November 7-12, 2016.

Rukutana rejected the allegations saying there is no way the trips could constitute gratification for the staffs’ roles in assisting SGS to secure the contract.

“By any stretch of imagination, we couldn’t get evidence connecting the alleged trips to South Africa to the award of the contract,” Rukutana said.

Rukutana also rejected accusations of conflict of interest against Rubanda East MP Denis Sabiiti who headed the Ministry of Works’ contracts committee before he resigned and later hired by SGS as a consultant.

“Whether the allegations are true or not, we didn’t find any justification to impute fraud on the part of SGS. If Sabiiti had resigned his office at the Ministry, he was free to go anywhere, including at SGS, in any case, the alleged crime was tasked at the conclusion of the contract.”

On recommendations that SGS contract be cancelled on grounds that it was void, given that the contract wasn’t drawn by the Attorney General, Rukutana rubbished the recommendation saying this isn’t a strong ground to have the contract cancelled.

“The practice is, the Attorney General doesn’t draw all agreements, the officials from the Attorney General’s chambers may participate in negotiations of agreements, but the line Ministries draw the agreements and subject them to the scrutiny and clearance of the Attorney whose role is to ensure that the constitution doesn’t infringe on any other provisions of the laws of the land,” Rukutana said.

Rukutana’s statement to Parliament followed a February 15 directive to the Attorney General to come up with a communication showing the risks or gains that would emerge in case the inspection exercise is suspended or contract cancelled.

Government risked paying SGS 75% of the value of its total investments or 100% of the company’s expected income.