Tension and tears: Inside explosive UIA, Anite meeting at State House

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Tension and tears: Inside explosive UIA, Anite meeting at State House
Minister Anite and UIA boss Mukiza are embroiled in bitter feud

An explosive meeting at State House drew tears on Wednesday afternoon as President Museveni grilled Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) bosses and officials from finance and investment ministries over a controversial 'service award'.

The President had summoned the meeting over a controversial Shs545m (about $145,000) paid to UIA management for their role in supervising the Kampala Industrial Park Development (KIPD) project.

At the meeting, UIA led by Director-General Robert Mukiza, the authority board of directors led by their Chairperson Morrison Rwakakamba, Minister in charge of Investment Evelyn Anite, officials from the Ministry of Finance, and the contractor for industrial park project skinned themselves before the President.

The meeting lasted about an hour, before it broke into heated arguments between Minister Anite and UIA boss Mukiza in front of the President.

Anite accused Mukiza of abuse of office and corruption at the expense of the taxpayer.

And for hours after the meeting, she was online with war drums. In one of the comments, she writes: "They are now using marriage connections to cover up their corruption but they will not win."

Mukiza told the President that UIA terminated the consultancy contract with the Owner’s Engineer for the supervision of the EPC Contract for the development of infrastructure (build and design) at Kampala Industrial and Business Park in Namanve (KIBP) on August 29, 2022, leaving a vacuum.

The void was later filled by Project Management Team and some UIA Staff. Since the two teams had taken on the role of the Owners Engineer, it was agreed that they should be paid honoraria in line with the Authority’s human resource manual.

To Mukiza’s surprise, Minister Anite considered this an abuse of office and corruption even after he claims it was within UIA’s human resource manual that since the Project Management Team and some UIA staff had taken on the roles and responsibilities of the Owners Engineer from August 30, 2022, they were entitled to these monies.

 

Tears and tension

In the meeting with the President, Mukiza insisted that monies were legally paid out and justified. It is at this points that temperatures in the room started boiling because Minister Anite still counter-argued the monies were paid out in a ridiculous manner.

Mukiza accused Anite of having her own interests. Anite broke down and started sobbing in front of the President, and asked to be protected as she accused UIA management of being liars.

"The President accused her of fighting Mukiza," said a source privy to what went on during the meeting.

"Anite cried and said she’s innocent but the President said shut up. She said she needs to clear her name and won’t keep quiet until he listens."

In one of the tweets on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday evening, an angry Anite wrote: "Who will save Uganda and Ugandans from the corrupt? I can’t believe the corrupt like Mukiza resort to lying about me to President Museveni in a bid to save their neck.

"Good news is the truth always wins. I promise to stay faithful to God, myself and my country."

Anite insists UIA should never have paid to themselves honoraria out of loan money for a project that is not even completed yet.

Way forward?

Whereas Mukiza had agreed to refund the money he received - as announced by Minister Anite on X - the President referred the matter to further investigations and the refund was halted until the investigations are concluded.

The investigations will be conducted by Ministry of Finance who will report back to the President as soon as possible so as to reconvene the meeting in two weeks.

The question at hand that the ministry of finance will attempt to answer is whether there was collusion in receivership of the honoraria and the legality of it.

The ministry is set to consult with the Auditor General on the matter, and also look deep into how UIA came up with the figures of the honoraria that was paid out.

According to what was presented to the President, the honoraria was computed as: number of days worked divided by 30 and multiplied 60 percent of monthly basic salary of staff, in accordance with the UIA Human Resource Manual.

Museveni acting under pressure?

In January 2019, the government submitted a loan application to UK Export Finance for £246 million (about Shs1.116 trillion) to fund various infrastructure projects, including road networks, sewerage systems, waste management, high-voltage electricity infrastructure, and IT network development.

The loan facility, worth £250 million (about Shs1.175 trillion), was approved in 2020 and disbursed to UIA for implementation within a 42-month period.

As of December 2021, with only 35 percent of the project timeline elapsed, progress stood at a mere 17 percent completion. This is how UIA opted to take on some of the responsibilities and roles of the Owners Engineer.

Analysts argue that by President Museveni summoning an emergency meeting between UIA bosses, the board and Ministry of Finance, he may be acting under pressure to demonstrate his commitment to accountability and transparency, particularly in relation to the loan.

The loan's terms and conditions included clauses that require the government to ensure proper use of funds and prevent corruption.

Analysts say that the President may be under pressure to demonstrate to the international community, including UK Export Finance (UKEF) which provided the loan, that government is serious about addressing corruption and mismanagement but also mitigate potential cancellation of the loan.

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