KAMPALA – Lawyers representing Hamilton Telecom Ltd, one of the bidders seeking to manage Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL), have written to President Museveni, protesting what they describe as malicious labelling by State Minister for Privatisation Evelyne Anite and also indicated they would take her to court for defamation.
In the Cabinet meeting last week, Anite fronted Mauritius Telecom for the UTL deal and accused UTL administrator Bemanya Twebaze of recieving bribes from Hamilton Telecom so as to win the contract. She also allegedly labelled Hamilton Telecom incompetent.
And now, Hamilton Telecom, through John Mukalazi has petitioned the President, protesting what they describe as hostility and animosity from Anite towards their bid to manage the cash strapped state owned Telecom company.
In a July 3 letter to the President , the company, which has a capital base of $250 million and is locally owned, says its “burning desire to invest at home and create employment is being frustrated by Minister Anite.
“…the plight to invest in Uganda especially as regards their bid for Uganda Telecom has been met with a lot of animosity and hostility. Some government officials, including Hon Minister Anite and Mr Sydney Asubo(Director Financial Intelligence Authority) have erroneously and intentionally misled the financial strength and ability of Hamilton Telecom regarding the value of the company along with its unlimited credit lines and resources,” the letter issued through their lawyers of Ms Kinobe and Mutyaba reads in part.
Mr Mukalazi also wrote to Minister Anite and asked her to apologise for the defamation remarks within seven days from July 3 or face action.
“You are noted to have referred to our clients as corrupt thugs who do not have money to run Uganda Telecom, something that is defamatory, not true and demeaning to our clients’ reputation,” the letter from the company lawyers adds.
The lawyers have also asked the Attorney General to apologize to them on behalf of government for Minister Anite’s remarks within 7 days or face court action.
During last week’s meeting, the Cabinet rejected Anite’s attempt to move government to confirm Mauritius Telecom as the new investor to take over the operations of UTL.
Ms Anite, in her submission on the matter, requested Cabinet to disregard recommendations of Mr Bemanya to negotiate with any of the three top bidders – Hamiliton Telecom Limited, Afrinet Kenya Limited, and Teleology Holding Limited.
Ms Anite wanted the government to compel the administrator, Mr Bemanya Twebaze to handover UTL to Mauritius Telecom, arguing that it was the only credible company cleared by the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA). However the Mauritius Telecom bid of $45 million was the lowest of the six companies competing for the takeover of the UTL, whose assets have been valued at $84 million. Hamilton had offered $70 million while Afrinet offered $67m. Teology offered $60 million.
Despite her tirade against top officials of the URSB, President Museveni ignored the ministers allegations of attempted bribery to her and directed Cabinet to appoint a committee to negotiate the final outcome on the matter. The Commitee to be headed by Attorney General Mr William Byaruhanga will also have Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze.
“We want to know how much the investor can give in relation to UTL assets,” a Cabinet minister quoted a decided Museveni as saying. The president then said that the Cabinet sub-committee will have the final say on the matter, thereby cutting off Ms Anite’s involvment.
The administrator had listed 7 companies including the three top bidders and Mauritius Telecom whose bid was the earliest but lowest. The others were Telecel Global, Neubacher Montage LLP, and Bayliss Consortium.
Cabinet had ordered that an investor be fiund to run UTL after finding out that it was choking on debts worth over Shs200b. At the time, President Museveni ordered all government ministries, departments and agencies to buy internet from UTL.
The Cabinet also ordered that all shortlisted potential investors be subjected to due dilugence by the Ffinancial Iintelligence Authority.
However in a surprising report, the FIA only returned Mauritius Telecom as the only bidder that passed the bill.
Mr Asubo, the FIA executive director, said in his May 23 report after analysis of the companies, Mauritius Telecom, a company in which the government of Mauritius holds 30 per cent shares was best placed for the offer. Despite efforts by the government to gave Mauritius Telecom to increase their offer, Ms Anite said there was no need. However, the Monday Cabinet decision moves her out of the picture.