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Works Minister Admits Blunders in Entebbe Airport Expansion Contract Award

Led by its chairperson and Nakawa West Constituency MP, Joel Ssenyonyi, COSASE tasked Katumba on Tuesday to explain why the Chinese firm acquired a certificate of compliance from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority – PPDA in 2022 yet they signed the contract in 2015.
Works and Transport Minister Gen Katumba Wamala (C) and CAA officials walking out after appearing before COSASE, Parliament’s public accountability probe Committee. Photo by Dominic Ochola

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There were omissions in the award of the multi-billion Shillings contract for the expansion of Entebbe International Airport, the Minister of Works and Transport Gen. Katumba Wamala has admitted  He was appearing before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises – COSASE alongside officials from the Civil Aviation Authority - CAA on Tuesday. 

In October, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija also admitted loopholes in the Shillings 703billion loan agreement Uganda signed with the Exim Bank of China. Several irregularities have been cited in the award of the contract to China Communications Construction Company – CCCC a contract worth USD 200 million (about 703 billion Shillings) to expand the airport. 

The expansion works cover the cargo area 300 by 400 meters to enable heavier output in the cargo business of up to 100,000 metric tons annually. Led by its chairperson and Nakawa West Constituency MP, Joel Ssenyonyi, COSASE  tasked  Katumba on Tuesday to explain why the Chinese firm acquired a certificate of compliance from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority – PPDA in 2022 yet they signed the contract in 2015.

PPDA is mandated with the regulation and transparent supervision of procurement and disposal of government-owned property and other assets of public interest. The lawmakers also tasked the Minister to explain why the Contractor signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Works Ministry to do a feasibility study and went ahead to execute the work themselves after being awarded the contract.

Ssenyoni asserted that in the MoU before the committee, the contractor bargained with the Works Ministry and promised to solicit a funder to finance the rehabilitation of Uganda’s only international airport thus arm-twisting the Government into a dubious deal. According to Ssenyoni, the Committee was shocked by the slow progress of the work, adding that the Company had failed to make a provision for the fuel hydrant, and ramp to carter for Persons with Disabilities – PWDs. 

//Cue in: “That is problematic…

Cue out…there were omissions.”//

Richard Sebamala, the Bukoto Central Constituency MP who is a Civil Engineer by profession tasked the Minister to explain the exorbitant cost of building the passenger terminal, cargo centre complex, pavement, and drainage that were valued at US$ 15 million among others.

//Cue in: “The total design…

Cue out…value for money.”//

According to the contract document that URN has seen, the firm valued the design of the passenger terminal building at USD 3.4m about (UGX 14 Bn), cargo centre complex USD 2.4m (UGX 8 Bn), runway USD 2.9 million (UGX 10 Bn) and the drainage system at USD 1.6 m (UGX 5 Bn) among others.

But Katumba who was appointed State Minister for Works and Transport in 2016, a year after the Ministry signed the MoU with the Company and went on to become a full minister in 2019, said that he couldn’t offer satisfactory responses to all the inquiries. He requested that those who were in the office at the time of the commencement of the project should be summoned by the Committee to explain the anomalies in the contract.

//Cue in: “Those were omissions…

Cue out…telling you a lie.”//

Last week, Levy Musinguzi, a former Assistant Business Development Manager of the Chinese firm told the legislators that the airport expansion works didn't undergo through the normal procurement chain of 160 days, contrary to the PPDA Act, 2003.

On November 17th, 2015, the Government through the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, and the UCCA signed an agreement with China Exim Bank to borrow the money at two percent upon disbursement; with a maturity period of 20 years including a seven-year grace period.

UCAA launched the expansion project in 2015 with phase one the project commencing on May 10 2016. The work was supposed to be completed by May 2021 but it was extended to December 2022.