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Drama as Chinese Contractors Threaten MPs

In the report, the Auditor General, John Muwanga questioned the process in which Uganda National Roads Authority UNRA awarded the US 479m contract for the construction of Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway to the Chinese firm without competitive bidding.
Officials from China Communications and Construction Company Limited (CCCC) appearing before COSASE.

Audio 2

There was drama during a meeting between the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) and officials from China Communications and Construction Company Limited (CCCC) on Wednesday.    

  

The CCCC officials had appeared before the Committee chaired by Abdul Katuntu, the Bugweri County member of parliament in relation to audit queries in the 2015 audit report in line with the construction of Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway. 

In the report, the Auditor General, John Muwanga questioned the process in which Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) awarded the US $ 479m contract for the construction of Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway to the Chinese firm without competitive bidding.

The Exim Bank of China is meeting 85 percent of the US $479m for the construction of the Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway. While appearing before the Committee, MPs led by Katuntu demanded an explanation from the CCCC officials led by their Managing Director, Zhong Wei Dong how they got the contract. 

In his response, Wei said they got the contract following a meeting between president, Yoweri Museveni and president, Xi Jingping of China in Cairo in 2009. However, Wei didn't present any documentary proof to substantiate his claim, saying the two countries didn't sign a memorandum of understanding. 

Wei's explanation prompted the legislators to ask him how he came to know about the project. Wei wouldn't have any of this.  He asked the legislators to stop harassing them or else the Chinese government stops supporting the country.

The committee chairperson, Abdul Katuntu put it to Wei that they won the contract after presenting UNRA with a solicited bid contrary the Procurement regulations.  Wei shot back asking the legislators why parliament approved the Exim bank loan for the project in the first place.

Elijah Okupa, the Kasilo County MP reminded Wei that it is the responsibility of parliament to approve loans and not project contracts. Wei told the committee that the Chinese government extends support to the country and if they want it to stop, it will do so.

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Katuntu warned Wei against trying to blackmail the committee, saying the Chinese government is doing Uganda a favor. He also reminded Wei that the project money isn't a grant, but rather a very expensive loan that tax payers have to pay back.

Beatrice Anywar, the Kitgum Woman MP also assured the contractors that Uganda is sovereign state despite its poor financial standing. This prompted Wei to apologize for his earlier remarks, which had angered the committee.

At this point, the committee directed officials from Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA and journalists to step out and held a closed session with the contractor. Shortly after the closed session, Katuntu directed UNRA not to approve any unsolicited contract until parliament takes a decision on the matter. 

He said his committee will compile a preliminary report and present it to parliament pronounce itself on the business relationship between UNRA and CCCC.

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