Former UNRA ED Fails to Explain Overpayments to Dott Services

Former Executive Director UNRA, Eng. Sebugga Kimezze (R) appearing as witness before the probe committee on Wednesday

The United States of America has said the Ugandan army, UPDF is not about to withdraw from the troubled northern neighbor`s territory despite the August peace agreement demanding their exit.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the rebels of Dr. Riek Machar and the government on 17th and 26th of August 2015 respectively says the foreign forces should withdraw from South Sudan within 45 days.

The rebel movement, prescription SPLA-IO have relentlessly called for the departure of the Ugandan army from their country.

The US, find which is the mediator IGAD-Plus` strong member that used its global influence to pressure the two groups to sign the peace deal has been quiet on the matter until Tuesday this week.

The US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth encountered with the South Sudan top leadership members from all factions at the White House in Washington.

The leaders including SPLA-IO chief, Dr. Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga and the SPLM Former Detainees leader who is also the SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum were on Tuesday at the White House to meet the US National Security Advisor, Susan Rice.

The meeting was however unceremoniously called off and the trio only met Donald Booth who is also currently in Washington.

At the meeting Dr. Machar did not wait long to confront Mr. Booth accusing the US of not doing enough in the implementation of peace agreement that has ushered in the formation of transitional government of national unity.

Mr. Machar told Booth that the presence of UPDF in capital Juba and other areas is one of the major impediments to the quick implementation of the peace deal.

Machar and his group want Juba to first be demilitarized before they officially set foot there and to them the demilitarization also encompasses UPDF departure.

Envoy Booth however, told Machar to first leave the question of UPDF and concentrate on other ingredients of the peace deal more importantly observing the permanent cease fire.

The accord demanded for immediate and permanent cessation of hostilities and the two principals Machar and President Salva Kiir ordered their forces to lay down tools when deal was signed. In less than a week fighting broke out and is still continuing in the oil rich states of Unity and Upper Nile.

The US is reportedly bitter with the continued spate of violence despite peace agreement.

“The matter at hand is continued hostilities which no one is happy to see. The UPDF isn`t withdrawing yet and let the focus first be on you people understanding each other and stop fighting,” Booth told Machar according to diplomatic sources.

Donald Booth was sent by President Barrack Obama`s administration since the outbreak of the war in South Sudan in late 2013. He attended the peace talks from the beginning in early 2014 up to end.

The US tested the waters of South Sudan together with the UPDF on 18th December 2013 and it was disastrous on the former`s when the unquestionably capable American multi-mission military aircraft- Osprey  C-22 was shot by the rebels near Jonglei capital Bor about 200km north of Juba.

The incident injured two marines forcing the plane to withdraw and turn to Nairobi. The mission was to rescue foreign nationals including Americans who were trapped in different towns when the violence had just started.

UPDF took a central role and deployed in Juba to secure the single International Airport Juba and diplomatic installations including that of the United Nations to ease the evacuation process and humanitarian access to the victims of the brutal conflict.

The Ugandan army is maintaining defensive positions in Juba and Both but has been accused by the rebels of Dr. Machar of supporting the government side.

The former Executive Director at UNRA Eng. Sebugga Kimezze was unable to give a clear explanation to the probe committee as to why his team approved Shs 180 billion in variations on the Tororo – Mbale – Soroti road.

Following change of scope of works and delays arising from lack of detailed designs, healing the contractor (Dott Services) made a variation order raising the sums from 30bn to 63bn and 46bn to 108bn for Tororo Mbale and Mbale – Soroti respectively.

However, there M/S Gibb International, the supervising consultant provided scientific logic which suggested lower sums than those asked by the contractor. Gibb proposed Shs 64 billion down from the contractor’s 111bn for Mbale Soroti and 40bn instead of 67 billion by contractor on Tororo Mbale.

“You paid a consultant 4.9 billion to give you advice yet you adamantly ignored their proposals and approved bigger sums. Can you explain the logic behind the extra billions you and your team approved?” asked Mary Kuteesa, the commission’s assisting counsel.

The witness flipped through documents and offered no response. He later claimed that; “The consultant proposed change in the original concept of the road (double surface treatment) given the increase in traffic. The market rates had also changed so we worked out new prices”

The variation order by Dott Services (contractor) had also been rejected by PDU on grounds that the factor was not logically defendable. The ED however proceeded to approve it.

“I wouldn’t expect PDU to present a document to contracts committee if they were not satisfied. I suppose an understanding must have been reached” said Kimezze.

The commission further queried the former ED as to why Dott Services received payment in compensation for 509 idle days yet it should have been 8 months (240 days).

“You can’t justify this, you can’t explain the logic yet you signed the addendum and paid the money. Will you pay back these billions to the consolidated fund?” asked Kuteesa.

The witness responded; “This is called occupational hazard”.

Information available to the commission further reveals that the standards set by the initial contract were lowered on the watch of the Accounting Officer and his team.

Justice Bamugemereire quizzed the witness to comment on the Minister of Works’ interference in UNRA work. In a letter dated August 16 2012, Minister Byandala wrote to the UNRA ED expressing concern that the Tororo – Mbale – Soroti project was behind schedule, causing political and economic effects on government.

The Minister directed that the road be transferred from the Directorate of Projects to that of Operations claiming that the former lacked capacity and experience. In fact, the Minister at one point chaired a site meeting with the consultant and contractor. “Was it common practice that the Minister gets involved in UNRA projects and chairs site meetings? Would you categorize it as interference or was he being proactive?” asked Justice Bamugemereire.

“He was pushing us because of political reasons due to public demands. It’s a problem to constrain a Minister when he comes but it’s not normal for him to order a directorate around” responded Kimezze.

He recommended to the commission that Dott Services, given its inadequate capacity (mobilizing equipment) should be limited to only 3 simultaneous projects.


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