Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has expressed concern over anonymous whistleblowers who the Authority says set out to pursue their personal selfish agenda and subsequently derail procurement processes of road projects.
UNRA says that some of these whistleblowers lack credibility and are meant to tarnish the character of UNRA staffers.
This follows media reports that alleged that Mrs Mary Kamuli Kuteesa, the Director Legal Services at UNRA facilitated the procurement of Chinese firms without declaring a conflict of interest.
The said allegations were carried in news articles in ‘Mulengera Media’ an online publication and Redpepper. They were based on a whistleblower letter written to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) citing a conflict of interest on the part of Mary Kamuli Kutesa, the Director Legal Services and Member of the Contracts Committee at UNRA.
The said Whistleblower alleged that Mrs Kutesa had participated in the award of a contract to Chinese companies China Wuyi and China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC) which are clients of her husband’s Law Firm without declaring a conflict of interest.
Subsequently, the IGG in a letter dated January 9 tasked the UNRA Executive Director Ms. Allen Kagina to investigate the matter and revert to her office within 30 days.
Now, UNRA has issued a statement saying that the said letters and media reports “are purely intended to malign and character assassinate persons of good repute, integrity and skill working to deliver services efficiently to all Ugandans”.
“These stories should be disregarded with the contempt they deserve. It should be stressed that UNRA’s nature of work is of interest to numerous parties and as a result attracts a number of whistleblower complaints and this tends to interfere in the due procurement processes,” the roads Authority added.
It says that such whistleblower allegations have derailed the progress of road projects including Rukungiri–Kihihi/Ishasha–Kanungu road and the Busega-Mpigi Expressway.
The UNRA Executive Director has also expressed concern on this matter in a letter written to the Minister of Works and Transport dated July 5 on what she termed as biased, unfounded allegations and complaints in the whistleblower reports hinged on promoting a selfish agenda than national interests.
In the August 11 statement, UNRA said that it is under the guidance of the Board of Directors who are executing their policy and accountability oversight and that “any allegations of differences with management is at the best fanciful imagination and should be treated as that”.
“We therefore appeal to the anonymous whistleblowers to allow the entity the chance to complete procurement processes without undue distractions and interference”.
According to UNRA, investigations into the complaints about Kutesa discovered that neither her husband nor any of the Partners in his Law Firm had ever represented or was at the time representing the said Chinese companies involved in bidding for civil works at UNRA.
“There was no conflict of interest on the person of Mary Kamuli Kuteesa as a Member of UNRA’s Contracts Committee and as such no apparent disadvantage to any other firms that were involved in the bidding process,” read part of the statement.
Regarding the issue of the Director Procurement, Management, John Omeke Ongimu, UNRA defended his recruitment saying he was picked as the most suitable and qualifying candidate for that position. The Authority says Ongimu’s track record is not in dispute and that all his previous employers highly commended him for the job. His track record is therefore not in dispute.
Some media had reported about a ‘disgruntled insider’ who allegedly wrote to the UNRA Board Chairman, Fred Omach expressing displeasure with the recruitment of incompetent and greedy individuals to fill Senior positions at UNRA. The writer cited John Omeke Ongimu, Mary Kamuli Kutesa and the Head of Audit, the three of whom he/she said had cases with the IGG.
But UNRA has equally refuted these claims.
The entity said Mr Ongimu’s competency is backed by more than 20 years experience in public and private sectors including supervising and coordinating African Development Bank and other International development donor funded projects as a senior procurement and contracting expert.
“It is therefore our submission that the stories being propagated by a section of rumour mills are tainted with malice to misrepresent the office of the IGG and to further advance that there is an apparent crisis at the Road’s Authority,” UNRA said.