Crime & Investigation

Roko Boss: I was Illegally Evicted from Lubowa Hospital Site

Roko Construction boss Mark Koehler has spoken out on the incident which occurred on Tuesday night at the construction site of Lubowa International Hospital off Entebbe Road, saying he was not arrested but “illegally evicted” from the area.

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ChimpReports today exclusively reported about Koehler’s interface with police.

Drama stated unfolding at 10:00pm when Koehler and his colleagues stormed the construction site with the view of stopping any works there.

He was intercepted by police which threw him out of the site.

Speaking to ChimpReports on Wednesday night, Koehler observed: “I  was just on site trying to stop the eviction. We secured an interim injunction two weeks ago maintaining Roko as the approved spv contractor.”

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Background

Early this year, Parliament approved a guarantee of USD 379 million (1.4 trillion Shillings) for the construction of an International Specialized Hospital in Lubowa, Wakiso district.

With a 264-bed specialized Healthcare capacity, the hospital will be operated as a world-class internationally accredited facility to treat conditions for which Ugandans have been travelling abroad.

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The conditions include cancer treatment, heart diseases, organ transplant, fertility treatment, highly specialized surgeries, and bone marrow transplant, among others.

Koehler arrived at Lubowa in a white Land Cruiser brand car with diplomatic license plates

The government sought authorization of parliament for the project following a proposal by the Italian investors Finasi Roko Construction SPV Limited, a major member of the FINASI-RoKo consortium, an entity which specializes in the construction of turnkey health care facilities.

In simple terms, Roko construction and Finasi, an Italian firm, prepared a joint proposal to construct the hospital which was endorsed and supported by Parliament and Government.

Government provided an irrevocable and unconditional promise to pay (promissory notes) for already completed works. The payment to the joint venture by government will be done at different stages as construction work progresses. This project had attracted a heated public debate with critics wondering why government didn’t provide the funds to rehabilitate the existing hospitals.

War

An investigation by ChimpReports shows that before construction works could commence, a war broke out among shareholders in the joint venture of Roko and Finasi.

The point of disagreement was the choice of the civil works contractor.

Roko wanted to carry out the entire civil works at the hospital site, citing its long record of completing major works on many buildings on time.

Finasi rejected the move, giving the excuse of Roko lacking the “technical and financial capacity” to complete the works in 24 months as agreed with government. Finasi asked Roko to share the work with a Chinese firm known as China Power.

However, Roko said it had the capacity to execute the project and went ahead to secure funds from Stanbic Bank.

According to a trove of documents reviewed by ChimpReports Investigation Team, Koehler firmly rejected Finasi’s idea before threatening legal action.

Finasi moved in to evict Roko from Lubowa.

Roko responded by dragging Finasi to court which issued an injunction to maintain the statsquo pending a ruling on the two firms’ disputes, leading to the deployment of police and military.

Police clash 

An eyewitness said on the night of July 2, 2019, Koehler led a convoy of trucks and attempted to force his way into the site.

Police asked him to leave, saying they were maintaining the sanctity of the site as per the court injunction.

Kohler reportedly refused to vacate, prompting police to kick him out.

The containers he came with were also impounded and taken to Lubowa Police Station.

“So there was no way Roko could be held in contempt of court because we are the approved SPV contractor,” said Koehler.

“We are waiting for the court ruling tmr and make the next court o action,” he said, adding, “In short Roko was illegally evicted from the site.”

The fight over who should execute the civil works threatens to derail the much-anticipated project.

A government official who preferred anonymity to speak freely said, “For us we want the hospital complete in 24 months. We want them to come back to us saying they are done. If they don’t resolve their issues and complete the work as provided in the terms of our agreement, we will move in.”

The high ranking official further said government won’t wait for 24 months to act.

“If we see a delay, we can terminate the contract,” he added.

Asked if the taxpayer would make a loss from the Lubowa fights, the official responded: “According to the terms of our agreement, we only pay for finished works. We can as well penalize them if they don’t fulfill their obligations because they gave us a performance bond.”

The unfolding development underscores some of the major challenges government faces in execution of largest infrastructural projects.

Government recently repossessed the Nakawa-Naguru Housing Estate land, nearly a decade after the investor failed to develop the planned satellite city.

The Auditor General (AG) recently warned that in the absence of a mitigation measures, late completion of projects results into further losses to Government and failure to achieve the intended objectives of the procurements/ contracts.

“There is need for closer supervision of these projects to ensure timely service delivery,” the AG advised.

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