Works ‘Besieged’ Museveni Over Railway Deal – Witness

Works ministry officials ‘besieged’ President Museveni to overturn the initial contract for the lucrative deal to upgrade and expand Uganda’s railway network to a standard gauge, a legislator told an ongoing select parliamentary committee probe tasked to investigate the circumstances under which the contract was awarded.

Appearing before the seven-member committee yesterday, the chairperson of the Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure committee, Ephraim Biraaro, said the pressure from the ministers compelled Museveni to change his mind.

“The railway transport is very critical in the development of this country and the president would want it to be worked out, but he has been derailed by ministers and technical officials in the ministry of works to keep on changing his mind from one company to another from time to time,” Biraaro told the committee.

As early as 2004, President Museveni had cleared the Chinese state-owned Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CECC) to take on a deal whose cost was put at $8.5bn. However, that contract was controversially cancelled by the state minister for Works, John Byabagambi, escalating the protracted battle that also involved the Chinese Harbour Engineering Company [CHEC].

Biraaro told the probe that his committee was oblivious of the railway project yet it falls under his mandate.

“The standard gauge railway project has never come to my committee at any stage [and] I can say that it has remained a secret of the ministry [of Works],” he said.

Three months ago MPs Theodore Ssekikubo [Lwemiyaga], Barnabas Tinkasiimire [Buyaga West], Wilfred Niwagaba [Ndorwa East], Paul Mwiru [Jinja Municipality East, FDC] and Abdu Katuntu [Bugweri, FDC] petitioned Parliament to constitute a select committee to investigate how the $8.5bn railway project was awarded to CHEC.

Source : The Observer

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