M7 Orders Muloni Probe Over Karuma Contract
By Stanley Ndawula 12th, February 2013
President Museveni has opened a can of worms in the face of his energy minister Irene Muloni.
He has directed her to forward all Karuma power project related documents, including letters she penned, to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) whom he has equally directed to carry out the probe without fear or favour, The Investigator impeccably reports.
The Presidential directive comes after Kabale MP Balyayanga questionably challenged the IGG, Irene Mulyagonja’s probe, claiming the probe was instigated in bad faith by “well-known” influence peddlers. After M7’s intervention, Mulyagonja shot back at the MP thus; “Whether or not we carry out an investigation cannot be determined by the influence of an individual who is not related to the complaint such as you, regardless of your status in society.”
The 660MW Karuma Hydro Power Project is the hugest project Uganda government has ever attempted to implement. It’s worth USD2.2BN and or USD4.5BN contingency, a figure experts say, represents 50% of Uganda’s GDP. And because of the money involved, reports of bribery emerged shortly after the submission of bid documents way back in February 2012.
President Museveni then directed police, Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and his private investigators to investigate the allegations, all of whose findings cited heavy bribery which resulted into preliminary awarding to China International Water and Electric Corporation, and dropping the most competent China Ghezouba Group.
Shocking findings, particulars of some we stole a glance, heavily implicate the line Minister, Irene Muloni, her ministry officials and more horribly, a TOP flamboyant Minister who reportedly fronted the favoured China Water and through whose wife, the alleged bribes were driven. In the reports, M7 is also informed of how a top China Minister has been a regular visitor to Uganda and has held several meetings with the implicated individuals.
Furthermore, Kaguta’s son is briefed on how his first family member’ names were dragged into the picture to influence favouritism, and how the flying bribes in dollars, saw the TOP minister’s wife zip up the would-be revealing media reports by flying senior journalists to China who on return penned centre-spread stories about their choice company.
More irritatingly, the President is reminded by his investigators on how Minister Muloni attempted to humiliate him when she led the China Water delegation to him, seeking his support. “But that is not the issue Your Excellency. The real subject matter is that the minister made you meet these people just a day after submission of bid documents yet there were other competitors,” reads part of the findings’ report.
Raged to the marrow, M7 called Muloni and ordered her to release all the necessary documents on Karuma Project to the IGG, “including all the letters you wrote and received on the same,” the President is quoted sounding the order. He then called IGG Mulyagonja and assured her of his support and protection, arguing her to scoop into the probe.
The investigations stemmed from a February 16th 2012 dated Whistle Blower (WB)’s report, tipping off police and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Executive Director, of how the evaluation committee members who had pitched camp at posh Chobe Safari Lodge in Masindi, were swimming in bribery cash, thanks to some of the bidders. The WB hence cited influence peddling and obvious distortion of facts in the pre-awarding process.
After two months, police released a not-so-implicative report which the President reluctantly received. As usual, he directed Ronnie Barya, the ISO Director and his private investigators to dig deeper into the matter and hence the above listed findings which have arguably helped him to confidently order for the probe.
However, police had also recommended a due diligence. “The inquiries are still on, pending the release of the bid documents and the evaluation report to us, for further investigations in respect of possible prosecution. The said documents are vital for further investigations but, it is highly recommended that that due diligence be conducted on the bidding firms before the award of contracts,” partly read the report.
Compiled by a three-man team selected by the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID) boss Grace Akullo, the report contents covered the alleged procedural irregularities that included presenting of suspicious documents which tantamount to forgery. Also highly considered were the strong bribery allegations amongst the 12-man evaluation team at Chobe Safari Lodge in Mansion Falls National Park.
The companies that made it to evaluation stage included China Ghezouba Group, Perlite Construction, Salin Construction, Sino Hydro C.M.C, Orascom Construction and China International Water and Electric Corporation. In the centre of police interest however, were the shocking allegations that the evaluators and bidders’ agents were sharing the hotel and that money was exchanging hands to influence the evaluation exercise.
It was also reported that many of the evaluators and mainly engineers did not have knowledge of the procurement laws and had never evaluated a bid at any level and, more irritating, the designer of the project was also on the evaluation team and obviously kept defending his design mistakes during the highly questionable exercise.
Police found positive, most of the WB observations. And to start with, some of the evaluation team members, if not all, ought at one time to be aligned before the law, to go by the investigators’ recommendations to the President.
They include Eng. Henry Bidasala of Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, UEGCL’s John Mugyenzi and John Kaizzi, Eng. William Nkemba from UETCL, Charles Victor Byarugaba of Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and, Mary Nankabirwa Mukasa of Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Others are Geoffrey B. Muhanguzi of Ministry of Works, Cecilia Menya, Zachary Baguma, Susan Watera, and Amos Ssamba, all from Ministry of Energy and, Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA)’s Patrick Mwesigye.
Police noted that whereas members of such a sensitive committee ought to have their movements checked and limited throughout the evaluation process, several of them conducted selves like they were on an off-duty tour.
The Due Diligence Call
To qualify their quest for due diligence, Detectives lined out glaring irregularities which if seriously considered, could smoothly result into fresh bidding, two members, namely Mugyenzi and Muhanguzi, joined the team two days after the official kick-off of the process on February 5th 2012.
It was uncovered that the bid documents were not only loosely kept in the drivers’ quarters some 150 meters away from the Conference Hall where the exercise took place, but the same boxes would be occasionally picked by the consultants long after working hours with due knowledge and permission of the chairperson, Eng. Bidasara whom, also police cites as having solely booked Chobe Safari Lodge without prior inspection.
Though the team was guarded by three police officers from the VIPPU section, members reportedly conducted selves with little concern, fit for PLE invigilators at an upcountry UPE school. Both at Chobe and Sambiya River Lodge (where they shifted after UNDP booked Chobe to full capacity), evaluation team shared facilities like dining room, bar, gym, TV room and computer rooms with other guests.
At sometime, two members; John Mugyenzi and Amos Ssamba claimed to suffer health ailments and they travelled to Gulu, allegedly for treatment. Suspiciously, the duo never hinted about the incident in their statements with police, neither did they provide medical forms in support of the same. Not them alone. Cellular Cites data extracted by police indicated that Susan Watera occasionally travelled out of the camp to Karuma, Luweero and Kampala, during the evaluation process.
Police also unravelled that even when they signed the attendance list on arrival; cellular cites drag several members away from the Lodge during the exercise. The same Watera switched off her phone on February 6th to 15th 2012. From 16th to 29th she is put in Kampala by her own phone records and she never went back to Chobe yet the Guest Registration Records suggest to the contrary
Tackling forgery and utterance of false documents, China Water is alleged to have submitted falsified bid documents for purposes of the obvious favourable competition. The same Company filed that they had worked on a 640MW project in China, a claim which a mere search of the internet quashed, putting the project at 20MW. The same website was pulled down shortly after the findings. Watch this space for developing stories on the probe.