Find Principled Way Out of This Katosi Road Mud [editorial]

The scandal involving the building of the Mukono-Katosi-Nyenga road refuses to go away.

It emerged last week that senior government officials had disagreed on the best way out for the project in which one company, Eutaw, fraudulently won a tender and subcontracted another company (CICO) to execute the works.

While Inspector General of Government Irene Mulyagonja and Deputy Attorney General Freddie Ruhindi want CICO to be barred from executing the contract, Attorney General Peter Nyombi disagrees. He argues that in order to save the country money, CICO should be allowed to continue with the works.

This Katosi case represents a major test for Uganda as a country that aspires to win the war against high-level corruption in order to gain maximum benefit for the citizens. It is important that government quickly sorts out the mess, but how this is done could have far-reaching implications.

Either Katosi will leave Uganda stuck in the mud that is graft, or we can use it to send a signal that we are determined to move to firmer ground.

Attorney General Nyombi manages to sound like a man keen to protect taxpayers’ money. If money has already gone to CICO, we risk losing it if we restart the tendering process. Nyombi seems inclined to believe that CICO had no idea about the flawed dealings involving Eutaw.

However, as the IGG argues, CICO was subcontracted by a fraudulent company, and to reward it would send a wrong signal to the country and the world – that Uganda is a country where you defraud taxpayers and get rewarded for it. The idea that the rules and principles should be bent in order to save money is certainly tempting but whatever money we save could pale in comparison with the cost of the precedent thus created.

To emerge out of this mud with any semblance of dignity, the government needs to go after all the architects of the Katosi fraud and their accomplices – and do so resolutely. And if it can be proven, as Nyombi suggests, that CICO was only a victim of deception by Eutaw, then it may only be allowed to participate in an expedited bidding process.

Source : The Observer

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