Chongqing International Construction (CICO) China has refunded Shillings 1.8 billion it irregularly claimed from Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA in fines. The money was transferred to UNRA Accounts on Friday last week.
Government contracted CICO in 2011 to upgrade the 92kilometer Vurra-Arua-Koboko-Oraba road from murrum to Bitumen standard at the tune of Shillings 138-billion. However, the company claimed Shillings 1.8 billion from UNRA citing late issuance of the environmental impact assessment report.
But last week, the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises ordered the Chinese firm to return the money after learning from Tom Okurut, the Executive Director National Environment Management Authority-NEMA that they issued environmental impact assessment report within four months earlier than stipulated time in the law.
Section 24 of the NEMA Act tasks the Authority to issue clearance within 180 days (six months). Following the revelations by NEMA, George Kabagambe, the Administrator CICO and project consultant Robert Gyesi feigned ignorance of the law, saying they acted within their contract with the Authority.
The COSASE Chairperson, Abdu Katuntu faulted UNRA for acting in a reckless manner and approving a bogus claim.
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According to the committee, the Shillings 1.8 billion was initiated by Ssebuga Kimeze, the former UNRA ED. Payment was effected in June 2016 under the leadership, Allen Kagina.
Anita Among, the COSASE Committee Vice Chairperson, says they will hold to account all accounting officers who acted recklessly with tax payer's money.
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Col. Francis Takirwa, one of the UPDF representatives in parliament, says the decision by UNRA officials to pay out a huge sums of money in irregular claims is a disservice to the country.
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As a result, COSASE chairperson Abdu Katuntu says they will review the contracts of each company involved in business with government.
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Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has written to the committee that all recovered monies be redirected to Account Number 003300148000037 in Bank of Uganda.
In his letter November 24th letter to COSASE chairperson, Keith Muhakanizi, the Secretary to the Treasury, says the money should be redirected to the “Deposit/Collection A/C for Misappropriated Funds Recovered from Individuals, Companies and Institutions".
The letter is copied to the Auditor General, John Muwanga, Inspector General of Government, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, Accountant General and the Executive Director UNRA, Allen Kagina.