By: Nasser Kasozi
Members of Parliament, and officials from the ministry of health led by Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng and permanent secretary Diana Atwine where shocked by a surprise blockade at the entry of Lubowa International specialized hospital construction site on Tuesday.
Members of Parliament on the committee of National Economy headed by Hajati Syda Bbumba were on August 01 requested the Ministry of Health to allow them to oversee the ongoing construction works. The anxiety by MPs to visit the ongoing construction of the Lubowa specialized hospital project was part of the parliament’s oversight role to on monitor and supervise.
This were put to halt as they were welcomed by blockades left sweating under the sun after they were blocked from accessing the site by the contractor who is in charge of the premises however the project is managed by the ministry of health who were also blocked from accessing the site this raised many questions as MPs were questioning who is in charge of the project when the project manager cannot have access to the facility.
On arrival at the Lubowa construction site MPs and health officials reached the entrance only to find orders not allowed to access the premises and the site was cordoned off by security.
The much anticipated pleasant reception is not what they received. They hoped for kisses, instead, they were kicked out of the site. Not even the Health minister Aceng who is the supervising authority on behalf of government could be allowed to peep inside the site.
The MPs and ministry of Health officials were blocked by security officials guarding Lubowa construction site that was contracted to Finasi/Roko PSV after parliament approved promissory notes of $379 million (over Shs1.4trn) in March 2019.
While police and LDU officials at the site ensured that no ‘illegal’ person accesses the site, a drone was hovering in the air, to capture the drama as MPs repeatedly knocked on the iron sheet-made gate in a desperate attempt to access the site. Inside the gate, parked a bulldozer perhaps to ensure no car gets in.
“We are sorry. We do not have the powers to let you in. Please talk to our bosses,” a voice from a police officer inside the gate continuously roared.
For about one hour, the MPs were restless; they moved up and down like a cow on heat but to no one’s rescue. Not even minister Aceng or PS Atwine could believe the humiliation they had been subjected to.
“How can the company that is contracted by the government block government from overseeing the construction works? The Ministry of Health has the mandate to supervise and monitor and so do the MPs. We approved the promissory notes, now why are we being blocked from supervising the project yet it is our constitutional mandate,” William Nzoghu (Busongora North MP) said.
“If they know they are genuine then why are they blocking us? It is now clear that they [Finasi] are having skeletons in their closet,” Katerera County MP Hatwib Katoto said.
In her response, minister Aceng said she cannot explain why they have been blocked from accessing the site. She was however quick to give reference to a letter by the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi to Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah stopping MPs from visiting the site.
In a letter dated August 02, Muhakanizi says that government officials cannot visit Lubowa construction site following pending ongoing legal disputes between Finasi and Roko. Muhakanizi says that the construction site is “no longer in the hands of government and government officials cannot, therefore, move on and off the site at will.”
It should be remembered that government through the Ministry of Health officially handed over Lubowa construction site to the contractor-Finasi/Roko SPV on June 10.
“Secondly, as guided by the Deputy Attorney General when he appeared before the Committee on National Economy on August 01, issues relating to the construction site at Lubowa are the subject of pending litigation. Accordingly, government officials cannot be deliberating let alone entering upon the very site which is subject of the pending litigation,” Muhakanizi says in his letter.
Kabale municipality legislator Aja Baryayanga and Ruhinda North MP Amos Tayebwa along other MPs including William Nzhoghu desperately knocks at the site gate in vain only to be entertained by endless loughs by police officers and private security guards manning the construction site.
However, MPs insist that Muhakanizi has no right to order Finasi to block them from playing their oversight role.
“Does Muhakanizi have powers to block us from playing our oversight role? It is impunity of the highest level from people who have powers. We appropriate funds and we must oversee works. Works are going on but there is no supervision from the government. Not even the government engineer has been allowed in,” Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North).
Accordingly reports indicate that Monday night, Finasi/Roko had ‘accepted’ to host Health ministry officials and MPS to supervise the works. At night, tents were being erected and food catering service providers had been allowed inside Lubowa specialized hospital site ahead of the meeting on Tuesday morning.
On learning that the ministry officials were visiting the site along with legislators this angered the contractors and decided to call the function without delay on Tuesday morning as MPs and health official reached the site they were welcomed by lockouts and pleasantries and The African News Journal found the Contracted catering services of Keba Investments packing their belongings in protest to leaving the construction site.
In a recent interview with The African News Journal and The Homeland Newspaper, Finasi International FZC Director, Hisham Sultan, said that, Construction works are ongoing at the Lubowa site and that the hospital construction project is on track and ahead of schedule.
Hisham insists that they will deliver the hospital to the government in 24months as per their contractual obligation with the government.
He said, MPs and Ministry of health officials did not notify the contractors about their visit to the site for preparations because in construction safety and environment standards must be adhered to not everybody is allowed to access the facility without prior arrangements. Hisham said,