Museveni summons UIA bosses, board over 'service award'

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Museveni summons UIA bosses, board over 'service award'
Robert Mukiza

The summons come at a time the President is making his tough talk walk with legislators thrown in jail over corruption

ENTEBBE | President Museveni has summoned the Uganda Investment Authority’s top management and board members to State House over the controversial service award payment that has raised eyebrows within members of the public and the Ministries of Finance and Investment.

The President's summons come after it emerged that the UIA management, led by Director General Robert Mukiza, paid themselves a total of Shs545m (about $145,000) as an 'honorarium' for their role in supervising the Kampala Industrial Park Development (KIPD) project.

The service award was paid without proper approval from the board.

The government secured €219,482,727 (about Shs1 trillion) from UK Export Finance (UKEF) on December 4, 2019, for developing infrastructure at Kampala Industrial and Business Park, Namanve.

However, the project faced significant delays due to inadequate supervision by the consortium of Roughton International Ltd, Turner and Townsend International Ltd, Joadah Consult Ltd, and Basic Group Ltd - leading to the termination of their contract on August 29, 2022.

The controversy intensified when contractor Lagan Dott sought guidance on the payment of the Project Management Team (PMT) and reported previous payments amounting to Shs545 million from the project loan.

UIA further requested an additional Shs316.6 million for honoraria.

Sources within UIA reveal that the management and board members are in a state of panic, with many fearing the worst.

"The mood is tense, and people are worried about their jobs," a source intimated to this reporter.

President Museveni lately has been vocal about his commitment to fighting corruption, and this has seen Members of Parliament fall from grace over graft allegations.

During the State of the Nation Address a fortnight ago, the President said he had obtained evidence of a racket within Parliament and the Finance Ministry that solicits bribes from ministries and government departments to increase their budgets.

At least three legislators are currently on remand on corruption charges related to negotiating and receiving kickbacks to influence sector budgets.

Two more MPs are expected to appear before the CID in Kibuli today over defrauding of war loss compensation funds from cooperatives as the President's tough talk appears to bite.

The UIA illegal honoraria were paid out without proper approval by the UIA board, a move that has raised questions about the agency's governance and accountability.

Despicable, uncouth...

The payment was only discovered after a whistleblower alerted the authorities, prompting calls for a refund from Minister in charge of investment Evelyn Anite.

Minister Anite described the UIA service award as "despicable, uncouth, barbaric, and uncultured.’’

She also directed the UIA top management to return the Shs545 million they paid themselves as an "honorarium" and threatened "dire consequences" if they failed to comply.

The minister's stance was that the payment was a form of "mischarge, abuse, and corruption" at the expense of the taxpayer.

UIA insiders reveal that the management had attempted to justify the payment, citing a contractual clause that allowed for honoraria payments for additional responsibilities.

However, this explanation has been dismissed as "flawed.”

As the UIA bosses and board members prepare to face the President, many are wondering if heads will roll over the scandal.

"If he finds that the UIA management has been reckless with public funds, he won't hesitate to take action because he is under pressure by the donor community to show that he is committed to fighting corruption,” a source inside State House has said.

The meeting at State House is expected to be tense, with the President demanding a full explanation for the irregular payment.

Sources suggest that the President may also order an audit of UIA's finances and operations to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.

Many are watching with bated breath, wondering what fate awaits the UIA management.

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