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MPs Probing Railway Scandal Turn into Lobbyists

MPs in China on an investigation into corruption allegations in Uganda's railway project

The Standard Gauge Railway saga has taken a strange dimension as the Parliamentary committee put place to investigate the alleged corruption in the awarding of a multi-billion dollar Uganda railway contract a controversial railway construction company turned to lobbying a new organisation in China.

The Parliament’s Select Committee on the Standard Gauge Railway jetted to China over the weekend and on Sunday January 25 met with officials of the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) which is among the Chinese companies that had expressed interest in constructing the Uganda railway line is also currently constructing the 335km Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway line.

The Committee, here thumb http://cirnow.com.au/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/sal/class.json-api-site-jetpack-base.php led by the Chairperson and Nakifuma County MP Hon. Kafeero Ssekitoleko, page and is in Beijing, look find China to meet with the companies that expressed interest in constructing the Standard Gauge Railway line as they continue with their investigations.

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Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in 2014 ordered an investigation into the much-anticipated infrastructural project following reports that its cost was raised from $8bn to $11bn under mysterious circumstances and that the procurement process leading to the awarding of the contract to Chinese firm China Harbour Engineering Company (CHECL) was done in secrecy after edging out China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

The top officials from CREC in Beijing, who were only supposed to defend their expression of interest to get the Ugandan deal, crossed the line and asked the committee to back them for the multi-billion dollar project on return to Kampala.

The Deputy Chief Economist and Director General of International Business Development of CREC Li Xiaosheng said that they have been involved in the construction of 36 railway projects in Africa with Ethiopian-Djibouti project is the biggest in Africa.

Mr. Xiaosheng urged the committee to consider his organization for the construction of the Ugandan Railway adding that CREC was capable of doing a good job as evidenced by the number of projects that company has carried out worldwide.

The chairman of the committee did not disappoint him in his response.

“We shall now be in a better position to defend your capacity to carry our projects of this nature after seeing what you are doing in Ethiopia,” Sekitoleko told the CREC boss.

He added that indeed the need for a standard gauge railway in Uganda has been occasioned by the high cost of transportation within the region as most of it is by road.

“We have lost a lot of investors because it is expensive to operate businesses in Uganda due to the high cost of transport. It is upon this background that the government decided to restore and upgrade to a standard gauge network,” he added.

The Select Committee delegation in China is composed of MPs Hon. Maxwell Akora(UPC, Maruzi), Hon. Clement Ongalo Obote (NRM, Kalaki), Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro (Ind., Sheema district), Hon. Patrick Amuriat (FDC, Kumi), Hon. Xavier Kyooma (NRM, Ibanda North) and Hon. Suzan Amero (NRM, Amuria district).

On the 14th of this month the African Parliamentary Network Against Corruption (APNAC- U) Uganda chapter led by Western Uganda Member of Parliament wrote a strong letter to Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga asking her to reconstitute the same committee and replace the leadership owing to the pomp way they handled one of the suspect, Rosa Whitaker.

“The manner in which the Select Committee on Standard Gauge Railway handled Ms. Rosa Whitaker was absurd and against our rules and procedures that steer this institution. The chairman and his group treated her with an unacceptable pomp. The committee needs to be reconstituted and another leadership put in place.” Karuhanga said.

The Select Committee was constituted by the Speaker of Parliament following a motion in Parliament calling for an investigation into issues surrounding the procurement of the standard gauge railway.

The Committee which is in China from 24th to 31st January 2015 will also visit railway construction sites in Guangzhou.

Museveni meeting

On December 6, 2014, President Museveni held a meeting with the Managing Director of China Railway Group Ltd. Company Mr. Hu Bo. The meeting took place at State House Entebbe.

President Museveni and his guest discussed issues on the prospective opportunities to invest in the construction of railway line in the western part of Uganda from Kampala to Congo border and to Rwanda.

President Museveni told Mr. Hu Bo and his delegation that the work of railway construction is big and China Railway Group Ltd. Company can undertake the construction of the line if they are ready to seek funding for the project.

The President said Uganda now has technical experts to help in the construction of the railway line and the right materials to be used after the government of Uganda trained some army officers with the knowledge and skills to construct railway lines.

Mr. Hu Bo told the President, they are confident to undertake the construction of Railway line and that their company is one of the most experienced since it built the TAZARA Railway line.

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