By John Ssentongo
On Monday, December 18 2017, a very senior and respected Ugandan lawyer Peter Mulira boycotted a court session in which he was representing a client accused of causing financial loss to government at the tune of Sh24 billion.
The case in question is the infamous Katosi road scam which was supposed to be upgraded at a cost of Sh162 billion by an American company, Eutaw Construction Company Inc. It was later to be cancelled mid way following a much publicized “scandal” which finally got then Works minister James Byandala in the dock alongside former UNRA executive director Eng Bernado Kimeze Sebbugga, Marvin Baryaruha (UNRA legal officer) and Apollo Senkeeto, the businessman behind Eutaw.
The Mukono-Katosi/Kisoga-Nyenga road contract was finally given to SBI and despite some works already done of the road, the new UNRA managers didn’t find it obnoxious to pay more than twice the amount to the new road contractor.
Eutaw which was booted out, according to the UNRA project engineer’s report, had completed work amounting to 8.5%, equivalent to Sh32 billion yet they had been paid only Sh24 billion to start the work, now the amount the Inspectorate of Government wants them to pay back or go to jail. This is the case before the Anti Corruption court. What is however clear for now – the trial has dragged on for too long and questions are starting to emerge.
In a black and white statement on Monday, counsel Mulira protested the fact that despite the evidence tabled before the Anti Corruption court, it is like the verdict of the court had been preconceived and therefore it was waste of time to attend a session whose verdict has been arrived at prior.
“I have come to the decision that my continued attendance in this court will not add any value to what I consider to be illegal proceedings,” Mulira penned, protesting the manner in which the case was being handled.
The case against Eutaw’s Senkeeto has been going on at the Anti Corruption Court for the past three years.
It is upon this background that one wonders, if the IGG as the right people in the dock, or, there are other interests at play.
Eutaw did work worth much more than what it was paid by government and on schedule. The project engineer made a September 10, 2014 report saying the work amounting to 8.5% was achieved on schedule. He valued the works to be equivalent to Sh32 billion.
Thus, why is the IGG bent on convicting wrong people? Inside there, lies the devil’s handwork.
Lawyer Mulira, in his statement, put it to the Anti Corruption Court serving the role of “impressing donors”. He could be wrong or right. But, it is not the Anti Corruption Court which brought the case against a selected group of Katosi road players. You might however fault the court for dragging the case this long. Like they say, justice delayed is justice denied.
However, it is quite important that we examine what happened after Eutaw was thrown out of Katosi road works. Also we should scrutinize why of all improprieties on roads sector, it is only Katosi road which ended up in the Anti Corruption Court?
Katosi road works were launched by President Museveni ahead of the 2016 elections. For over two decades, the president had promised the people of Mukono and Buikwe that this road would be upgraded and potholes and dust on that road would be history by election time. Sources privy to the deal say, Eutaw did not have all the money to finish the road in the “political time” and were conscious of the need to expedite the construction not to embarrass President Museveni who wanted good progress by early 2016.
What Eutaw did was to sub contracted another Chinese company which had equipment and other resources in Uganda, but also after notifying UNRA as per procedure.
Everything was going according to plan, when hell broke loose. It was reported that Eutaw was a fake company, which had extracted huge sums of money from its accounts which money was meant to build Katosi Road.
The government agencies jumped in; the contract was cancelled, UNRA bosses were fired, the works minister was sacked, and the IGG wanted all of them in the dock.
What is surprising though, three years down the road, no conviction has been got.
According to information on our desk, it is clear the IGG flaunted procedures in this particular investigation where she acted the complainant, investigator, prosecutor and judge.
This website understands that the property of Eutaw including construction equipment were put under caveat since and were rotting away, a move which might affect government in the near future if those equipment get mechanical problems and the owners choose sue government for compensation.
This website also understands that personal property of the suspects including houses have been attached.
Mulira challenges the Anti Corruption Court on why they would accept a private citizen such as Senkeeto to be prosecuted by the IGG? Justice Mulyagonja, in Mulira’s opinion, was over stretching her mandate which restricts her to government agencies and public servants.
Mulira would still challenge the IGG on the trial of the former UNRA bosses as well as the Minister Byandala since everything which was done was done with advice of the Solicitor General who is absent in the dock, meaning there was selective prosecution in the first place, targeting, if not victimizing particular individuals.
This website tends to agree with counsel Mulira that if there was impropriety on the part of ex minister Byandala, UNRA bosses and Eutaw boss Senkeeto, then why is taking the court and IGG to convict them? The reason can only point to the overwhelming contrary evidence before court versus the expectations of the beneficiaries of the trial.
The pursuit of corrupt people, is the job of the IGG, also one wonders if the IGG realizes she has the wrong people in the dock, why does she return to the drawing board to look for the right suspects? Why does the IGG insist on pursuing the wrong people, knowingly? Is there any conflict of interest?
In answering those questions, one needs to study the beneficiaries of the cancellation of the Eutaw Katosi deal. The most visible one, being SBI, the construction company which immediately took over the road works. There are many questions including if the due procurement process was followed in given the company the contract as well as the amount of money the road is going to cost versus the earlier budget of Sh162 billion. The last question will be about the quality works on this road, and why up to now, the road has not been handled over.
Look out for Part II about who is SBI and its role in Katosi road scam.
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