The Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry is taking action to address alleged procurement irregularities within the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives.
Under the leadership of Hon. Mwine Mpaka, the committee has decided to summon the Permanent Secretary, Geraldine Ssali as they investigate the alleged irregularities.
One of the issues being investigated is the ministry’s decision to use supplementary funds amounting to Shs5 billion originally meant for renting new offices at the Kingdom Kampala Building for the rehabilitation of their existing offices at Farmers House on Parliamentary Avenue.
It was also revealed that the ministry spent an exorbitant amount of Shs400 million on transporting files from Kampala to Entebbe during the rehabilitation process, which has raised eyebrows among committee members.
The ministry also purchased laptops worth Shs162 million for staff members to work from home and procured five used vehicles for Shs600 million each.
During the committee meeting held on Monday, 03 July 2023, Hon. Mwine Mpaka disclosed that the ministry had committed the government to a multi-year expenditure of Shs6 billion without obtaining authorization from Parliament, which he said is a violation of the Public Finance Management Act.
The meeting also revealed that the rehabilitation contract was awarded through direct procurement, bypassing necessary due diligence procedures.
Mpaka highlighted discrepancies in the cost of the renovation project where the initial estimate from the Ministry of Works was Shs3.1 billion, but this was later inflated to Shs6.2 billion, suggesting potential misconduct in fund allocation.
“The person who entered the Bills of Quantities (BOQs) into the system claims that he was also removed from the system and transferred. The procurement officer claims that he was also transferred,” Mpaka said.
Initially, the committee had requested the appearance of Geraldine Ssali.
However, she informed the committee that she had already submitted all relevant documents and had stated everything she needed to say.
Nevertheless, after interacting with the former Head of Procurement Officer, Alfred Lapyem and Evarist Ahimbisibwe, the former Principal Administrative Secretary, the committee decided to invite the Permanent Secretary since the two officials had been logged out of the system and transferred.
David Kalwanga (NUP, Busujju County) raised concerns about the cost of transporting files to Entebbe, questioning why it amounted to Shs400 million when a truck full of sand costs only Shs2 million from Masaka to Kampala.
Mpaka stated that they would request the Speaker to summon Ssali, and if she refuses to appear, the criminal summons will be issued.
The committee also plans to engage with Tom Acwera, the retired former Procurement Officer, officials from the Ministry of Works and owners of the bond where the vehicles were procured.