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Uganda: Civil Servants asked to return BlackBerry phones

MPs asked top government officials who received 450 BlackBerry phones during the Commonwealth summit to return them to the ICT ministry. The Public Accounts Committee asked the ICT ministry permanent secretary, Dr Jimmy Saamanya, to retrieve the gadgets from ministers, permanent secretaries and commissioners.

"All government officials who received Chogm Blackberry phones must return them within seven days," committee chairperson Nandala Mafabi (FDC, Budadiri West) said. "These were government assets given to individuals for their personal benefit. It's ridiculous that some of these people didn't even do any Chogm work yet they took BlackBerry phones."

In October 2007, the government contracted Celtel and UTL to provide BlackBerry services - a wireless solution that offers a sleek, stylish and compact all-in-one mobile phone solution, with the benefit of integrated email, SMS, diary, contacts, instant messaging and Internet browsing.

Celtel Uganda (Now Zain) supplied 254 Blackberry phones at a cost of $102,000 (about Shs200 million). The rest were supplied by UTL at a cost not yet disclosed to the committee. MPs say there were no clear guidelines on who should have received the phones and now want them returned to the ministry in charge for proper allocation.

The committee also heard that a number of computers, laptops, computer tables and printers supplied for the 8th Women's Affairs Ministers Meeting, an advance meeting of the Chogm summit, have remained missing. Of the 33 computers worth Shs103.4 million, 10 and their accessories were signed for by the women's meeting on condition that they would be returned but they never made their way back.

The Director Information Technology, Godfrey Kibuuka, Ambrose Ruyooka, the commissioner and Dr David Turahi, the chairperson of the contracts committee, were questioned over reports that they mishandled the procurement of Chogm computers. "We want CID to investigate this computer deal because we have information that these people forged accountability," Mr Mafabi said.

The Monitor

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