KAMPALA – The meeting at the construction site of the Lubowa Specialised hospital failed to take place after lawmakers on the National Economy Committee were barred alongside their host.
The Minister of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng and her team were barred from accessing the site a decision that left the team seething with anger at the disrespect exhibited by the contractors.
In March 2019, Parliament in the midst of protest from some MPs approved a motion by the Ministry of Finance to issue promissory notes to a tune of USD379Million approximately Shs1.4Trn to pave way for the construction of specialised hospital with the money extended to Finasi/Roko Construction Company.
However, just a month after the approval of the funding, the project was hit with controversies after Soroti Municipality MP, Herbert Ariko informed Parliament that the East and Southern Development Banks released USD87M on May 16, 2019 to this date, Stanbic Bank has released USD50M of the USD 87M with questions swirling on where the USD37 Million had disappeared to before the work kicked off.
“This is a call to this House not only to carry out oversight post squandering of money. The Committee didn’t get an opportunity to interact with the direct implementors of this project that is FINASI International and Roko Construction the two contractors to appear before the relevant committees in order to provide the committees with clarity on management of these funds we lose like another Katosi,” Ariko said in March.
The new revelation prompted Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga to direct the Committee to undertake investigations and with the scrutiny going on, the lawmakers tasked Minister Aceng to have access to the site and oversee the ongoing construction works.
Indeed, on Tuesday morning, committee MPs along with officials from Health ministry led by Minister Aceng and PS Dr Diana Atwine were set to visit the site and supervise the works. As part of the preparations, Health ministry on the eve of the visit (Monday night) advanced a team to erect tents and paid Keba Investments Limited, a catering service provider to sort matters of the stomach for the guests.
However, the MPs and health officials were left nursing the outcome of the shock upon arriving at the site and found the premises sealed off by both Police and Local Defence Units who moved swiftly to kick the team off the site and the wrath of the security team didn’t spare Ministry of Health that is meant to be the supervising agency to oversee the project.
While police and LDU officials at the site ensured that no ‘illegal’ person accesses the site, a drone was hovering in the air, to capture the drama as MPs repeatedly knocked on the iron sheet-made gate in a desperate attempt to access the site. Inside the gate, parked a bulldozer perhaps to ensure no car gets in.
The Security team simply told the MPs and Minister that they had no powers to let them in and asked the visiting team to talk to their bosses, and attempts to get their way through fell futile after waiting for over one hour in the scorching sun.
The Busongora North MP, William Nzoghu who had earlier opposed approval of the funds and joined other MPs to author a minority report after raising concerns that no due diligence had been undertaken to establish FINASI’s capability to construct a hospital of such magnitude was also left shocked at the site stating,
“How can the company that is contracted by the government block government from overseeing the construction works? The Ministry of Health has the mandate to supervise and monitor and so do the MPs.
We approved the promissory notes, now why are we being blocked from supervising the project yet it is our constitutional mandate.”
Even the NRM MPs who had supported the project appeared to have second thoughts about the decision they had undertaken with the Katerera County MP, Hatwib Katoto saying;
“If they know they are genuine then why are they blocking us? It is now clear that they have skeletons in their closet,” he retorted.