KAMPALA — The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has defended its relationship with Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO) and dismissed reports that the Chinese construction firm is blacklisted over corruption and fraud as claimed in recent media reports.
UNRA’s media relations manager, Allan Ssempebwa said the firm was given a clean bill of health after the expiration of a yearlong debarment by the African Development Bank.
“Yes, CICO was debarred in August 2017 for 12 months which expired in August 2018. A further search on the current debarment list does not include CICO,” Ssempebwa explained.
This website last month reported on the debarment after the Chinese firm was awarded three road construction agreements by UNRA, a development attracted debate.
The agreements include the construction of 16km of road between Kira, the country’s second-most populous city, and Matugga, an urban center located north of Kampala, the capital.
“This will be the first urban road to have segregated pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes which will enhance the safety of pedestrians and cyclists,” said the UNRA executive director, Allen Kagina.
The project whose work is expected to start by the end of the year is valued at UGX. 200.3 billion ($54 million).
Under the deals, CICO is also entrusted with the construction of the 11km Najjanankumbi-Busabala road in Kampala, and the rehabilitation of 7.3km of road in the central city of Masaka.
Both projects require UGX.258.8 billion ($70 million) and UGX. 35.9 billion ($10 million), respectively.
In May 2017, an investigation conducted by the AfDB’s Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption established that CICO overstated both the scope and the value of contracts it had supposedly completed in the past.
“It is the duty of the African Development Bank to ensure that the funds it receives from donors are used exclusively to further the socio-economic development of the institution’s regional member countries. CICO will therefore remain debarred until the bank is assured that it is not putting funds at risk by doing business with this company”, explained Bubacarr Sankareh, acting director of the Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption of the AfDB.
The Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption of the AfDB is responsible for preventing, deterring and investigating allegations of corruption, fraud and other sanctionable practices in the bank’s financed operations.
To prequalify for the works contracts tenders in Uganda, the bidding company needed to show that it had successfully completed at least four similar projects in the previous five years.
CICO inflated the scope and the value of its reference contracts during the bid. It falsely presented a 4.4km road contract as having 68km in length. In another instance, the value of a reference contract was erroneously inflated from US$17.5mn to US$79mn to meet the prequalification criteria.
But UNRA says the debarment period expired and that the company has a clean bill of health that qualifies it to get contracts in Uganda.