A powerful Cabinet Minister is using his connections in government to lobby for a $15m (Shs 55bn) deal for an Indian firm, Chimp Corps report.
The Minister of Public Service, Wilson Muruli Mukasa on November 16, 2018, wrote to President Museveni saying the Electoral Commission, which is searching for new premises, should buy prime property owned by Megha Industries.
The EC is set to relocate from its Jinja-road based headquarters to pave way for the construction of the Kampala Flyover project which commenced earlier this year.
The project will see flyovers erected at Kitgum House, Garden City and Clock Tower junction.
As EC officials intensify the search for new headquarters to accommodate their offices and a heavy printer ahead of the 2021 elections, dozens of brokers are using influential government officials to army twist the electoral body to give them business.
While this is common in Uganda, many have been shocked by the fact that a Cabinet Minister has now turned into a broker.
In his confidential letter, now seen by ChimpReports, Muruli told President Museveni that, “Megha industries belongs to Dr Shiraz Meghani and Mr Sikander Meghani. They would like to sell their property so that they develop another property of Lugogo bypass.”
The Minister, whose Public Service docket has nothing to do with procurement and disposal of government property, added: “They (Megha Industries) offered a sale price of 15 million USD which I am informed would be affordable to the Electoral Commission.”
It remains unclear how Muruli got wind of the confidential procurement details of EC as he didn’t respond to our calls seeking clarification.
The development raises concerns about possible interference in lucrative procurements by top political leaders.
Muruli told Museveni the EC board “wanted to take the Meghani property because it would be a suitable home with enough space for future developments. However, the Secretary of the EC is interested in the Luthuli Avenue Property. This interest has prompted a protest from the Chinese and they have gone to court.”
While lobbying for the Indian firm, Muruuli further said the Megha Industries premises “rests on 4.5 acres; has a storied office block and six large warehouses. It is leasehold with the current lease expected to expire in 2079.”
He also decampaigned the Chinese company which participated in the bidding process, saying they “lack adequate parking space and a warehouse. If chosen, the Commission would have to hire or buy a warehouse outside the premise. It is also located in a wetland.”
Muruuli further said the Luthuli Avenue Property rests on 0.8 acres; lacks adequate parking space and has no room for a warehouse. “If it is chosen, the EC will have to hire or buy a warehouse away from the premise.”
Officials at EC said their main interest is not warehouses as these can be located anywhere but a conducive space for human resource.
Chimp Corps visited the building which EC intended to buy along Luthuli Avenue in Bugolobi at the cost of Shs 60bn.
The 6-storey building in the plush suburb of Bugolobi, which sits on more than acre of land, boasts palm trees and neatly maintained lawns.
Acacia Ltd managed to beat competition from the Chinese-owned Zhang Hao, whose structure is located in a swamp near the railway crossing in Bugolobi.
Hao also was faulted for failure to submit evidence of fulfilling tax obligations and lacked fire escape routes. Official records show the Chinese did not have facilities for PWDs and parking space for 120 cars.
Other companies edged out include Simbamanyo Estates, Gold Course Investments, May Flower Investments and Linda Properties among others.
While writing to Museveni, Muruli also revealed the source of his information.
“On November 14, 2018, I met Mr Edgar Rutehenda Abaho and Mr Sam Kamukama who raised gear of possible loss of money by government in procurement of EC offices and a warehouse,” he told Museveni.
It remains unclear why the duo, who are said to be brokers of Megha Industries, did not approach other institutions such as the Inspectorate of Government or police to investigate the procurement but settled for Muruli.
“We were shocked that a Cabinet Minister, who is a political leader, was actually not alerting the president of a flawed procurement process, but lobbying for an Indian business,” said an official in the president’s office.
“This is a new low,” the official said, emphasising, “He should be called to order and even asked to resign.”
Asked why EC did not build its own premises, EC Secretary Sam Rwakoojo said the cost would be higher than buying a building.
“It would mean renting a new place to temporarily accommodate the printer which sits on a large piece of land and 200 staff and then relocate to a permanent home,” said Rwakoojo.
As top political leaders meddle in the EC procurement for new premises, the electoral body could end up failing to obtain a new home in the short run and end up renting a temporary place.
This could see the taxpayer lose billions of shillings.
The relocation of the printer and other vital assets at the EC would cost almost a billion shillings.
EC would as well have to pay about Shs 2.5bn in rent per year; and partitioning of the offices among other costs.