Updated at 2115 EAT on 11th March 2022.
The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among has directed the Auditor General to conduct a value for money audit on the ongoing expansions of Entebbe Airport and on the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) generally.
This followed debate on the report of the Committee on Public Accounts – Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises, on the operations of UCAA.
Committee Chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi presented recommendations to be implemented, with a critical appraisal on the manner in which the contraction of the expansion works was handled.
Ssenyonyi faulted the process leading to the award of the tender, saying it was uncompetitive and offended the contract laws of Uganda.
“The committee observed that…the MoU signed between the Ministry of Works and Transport and CCCC established a contract, identified a bidder, spelt out the type of contract as design and build on the project and determined the source of funding; the MoU did not create room for competitive bidding in the project,” he said.
He recommended that the officials be sanctioned for their involvement in the contract.
“The responsible officers in the Ministry of Works and the Attorney General’s office who were involved in this flawed MoU should be held responsible,” he added.
The committee also took issue with clauses in the contract, some of which they said breaches the sovereignty of Uganda.
One of the contentious clauses is clause 3, which the committee noted that it imposes “Chinese legal jurisdiction on the loan recovery mechanism and arbitration”.
The Attorney General, Hon Kiryowa Kiwanuka, however, said there is no need to have fears since Uganda does not intend to breach the contract, which condition would activate the impugned clauses against Uganda.
“We have not been and are not in breach of contract; we do contracts for purposes of meeting our obligations, not breaching them,” he said.
Hon. Milton Muwuma (NRM, Kugulu South) was not amused by Cabinet’s alleged omission in ensuring the terms of the contract are not favourable to Uganda.
“Couldn’t we raise a red flag [against the unfavourable terms of the contract]; what was the role of Cabinet? Why weren’t they able to find those anomalies?” he said.
Hon. Emmanuel Ongiertho (FDC, Jie County) said the country negotiated poorly, and that the contract terms should have been better.
“Not long ago, everybody was saying the airport would be taken over by Chinese, but from the report, you could see [why there were those speculations] because if the agreement for the loan kind of gave Uganda to the hands of the Chinese, then it is right that the airport [can be speculated to] belong to the Chinese,” he said.
On the terms of the contract placing UCAA’s finances under an escrow account in China and having the Chinese laws arbitrate the contract, Ssenyonyi said Uganda effectively surrendered it’s sovereignty to China.
“We are talking about a sovereign country; this entity [UCAA] has got its revenues and it cannot expend any of that money until it gets an approval [from China]; the third one is imposition of Chinese legal jurisdiction [in arbitration of issues arising from the contract],” he said.
But Government Chief Whip, Hon. Thomas Tayebwa said the agreements, for which government is being blamed, had its terms approved by the House through a report from the Committee on National Economy in 2015.