Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kutesa warns donors over CHOGM probe

Comment: Imagine Kuteesa warning on CHOGM ????
Pray for this nation
By Vision reporter

FOREIGN affairs minister Sam Kutesa has warned representatives of donor countries in Uganda against trying to influence the outcome of the CHOGM probe report.

In an interview with Sunday Vision,/i>, Kutesa said he was aware of a plot by some donor countries to blackmail the Government by threatening to cut aid.

“I know for a fact that there are some donors pushing for this matter to make Uganda appear corrupt. We are also aware that foreign governments could be financing the opposition through NGOs and are now trying to capture other government organs, including the Legislature,” he said.

“The Government is not scared about threats to cut aid as long as its political and economic programmes are on course. In the meantime, as we watch, it will not be tolerated.”

A draft Public Accounts Committee report accused Kutesa of influence peddling in the CHOGM car deal. MPs alleged he was a shareholder in Europcar/Motorcare, the company that won the contract to supply the BMW cars.

“I have read in the press that there is a report. But my information is that there is no report yet by the PAC and there are many questions about the leaked document. The committee has not exhausted its investigations.”

Kutesa also said the PAC investigations should not be politicised. He said some MPs on the committee were introducing politics on accountability issues.

Asked what he will do if the committee goes ahead with the recommendations he replied: “I don’t rule out challenging the report in court if they don’t incorporate my explanations on the Auditor General’s queries.”

The minister dismissed the leaked document and denied allegations of conflict of interest.

“It is not factually and legally true that I was a shareholder of the company that was awarded the contract. I would wish to find anybody credible to challenge that. I remember when I was in that committee, the PAC chairman directed the CID to investigate the shareholding of that company. I challenge the CID to produce the findings. How does conflict of interest arise when the fact of the matter is that the CID established who the shareholders are and I am not one of them?” he asked.

Kutesa, however, admitted that his family company, Seci, held 20% of the shares in the company but sold them to Robert Kabonero on August 29, 2005.

“They say I sold my interests in the company to benefit from CHOGM, two years later. I must have been a magician to know that the company would be awarded a CHOGM contract. There was no conflict of interest because I was not a party to that company and by the time I held shares, CHOGOM had not been confirmed,” he stated.

Asked why he wrote to the suppliers he replied: “In all cases I acted within the law and on directives from the Cabinet. I was not writing as a minister. The decision was made by the Cabinet chaired by the President in February 2006.”

“The President said it would be expensive to maintain such a huge fleet. I am even informed the President reiterated this during his interaction with the PAC committee in Entebbe.”

President Yoweri Museveni while meeting the MPs on Thursday explained that he gave guidance on the general principles, but he was not involved in actual procurements.

Kutesa explained that Museveni and the Government decided to go for the leasing to avoid the high cost of maintenance and avoid a repeat of what happened when government bought Mercedes Benzes for Preferential Trade Area summit in Uganda but failed to maintain them.

“My decision to write to some companies was not to initiate procurement but find out the viability of this option,” he said.

“It was also to establish indicative figures that would help our committee to arrive at a budget for the technical people to implement. The final decision was not an individual decision but the cabinet committee’s.”

The foreign minister also denied allegations that he inappropriately awarded a deal to Saatchi & Saatchi to get sponsorship from companies for CHOGM activities.

Kutesa said it was the CHOGM Cabinet sub-committee that authorized the award of the contract.

“I did not procure the contract for Saatchi & Saatchi. The company had been contracted by the office of the Prime Minister where I don’t sit to do CHOGM publicity. How they got their contract was not my business.

A meeting of the corporate sponsorship committee was held and decided that the same company be tasked to incorporate private companies”.

He said his only role was to write a notification letter for the company for the award of the deal.

“As chairperson of the corporate sponsorship committee, I communicated the decision to Saatchi & Saatchi. That is my only involvement in this matter.

Kutesa said CHOGM was a resounding success with the construction of hotels and improvement of existing ones which increased bed capacity from 1,500 to 15,000.

Tourists sites were improved and have driven up the number of tourists visiting to over one million. The infrastructure was worked on. The telecommunication environment and infrastructure was enhanced.

There was also creation of business and employment opportunities. How could ‘thieves’ be the ones to bring this tremendous success?”

Published on: Saturday, 1st May, 2010

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