Uganda: Broadcasting Boss Probed On CHOGM

Regulation & Policy

MPS on the public accounts committee last week handed over Broadcasting Council chairman Godfrey Mutabaazi to the criminal investigations department over a $5m (about sh9.4b) deal he negotiated with Globecast for the CHOGM media centre. The MPs, who were armed with copies of Mutabaazi's correspondences with the French firm, accused him of single-handedly negotiating the deal.

Mutabaazi, together with Martin Odwedo, the former permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, were asked to explain why there was no competitive bidding for the services. They wondered why a proposal that was earlier submitted by the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation to buy equipment to enable them do the job was ignored, and why they, instead, hired Globecast which went back with all the equipment they procured for the four-day event.

Mutabaazi was co-opted on the media and publicity sub-committee under the Prime Minister's office for his "technical competence". The committee noted that Mutabaazi met Globecast during the 2005 Commonwealth meeting in Malta and kept corresponding with the firm before coming up with sh9.4b, which he communicated to the CHOGM Secretariat as "our final figure". The MPs wondered in what capacity he was writing "our figure" and why he did not involve the other members of the media sub-committee in the negotiations.

Kagole Kivumbi, who was in charge of publicity, said Globecast's role was to set up a media centre at Imperial Royale Hotel to steer all media activity, while Saatchi and Saatchi was to carry out local awareness.

He tabled a letter of January 3, 2007 allowing for selective sourcing for CHOGM projects that were timebound. But committee chairman Nandala Mafabi argued that there was a lot of time since Uganda's bid was confirmed in Malta in 2005. He said direct procurement was only allowed where the firm was offering specialised services which no other company could offer.

In his explanation, Mutabaazi said Globecast had billed the organisers in Malta $3m and those in Nigeria $6m. He denied negotiating behind his colleagues' backs. He argued that meetings were organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that he was merely a technical person.

Claver Mutuluuza (NRM) noted that $5m was a lot of money for only hiring equipment which would be carted away. David Bahati (NRM) wondered why after his visit to Malta, Mutabaazi started communicating with Globecast as chairman of the Broadcasting Council and not as a member of a sub-committee. William Nsubuga (NRM) asked to be shown a survey that was conducted of the infrastructure in Malta and Nigeria in order to come up with the $5m.

The MPs threatened to impose a sh20m penalty or 12 years imprisonment on Odwedo for failing to provide information to the Auditor General when his office queried over sh7.8b paid to Globecast in January 2008. "Compliance to contract specifications could not be adequately verified due to lack of documentation," the Auditor General's report noted.

"The documents provided were not sufficient to enable me ascertain that all what was paid for was provided." This, he said, included the design and construction of the media centre at $580,000, charges for logistics at $795,000, IT equipment at £350,000 and furnishing and dressing at $285,000.

The audit further noted that some of the equipment brought into the country by Globecast was for hire by other broadcasters. The firm also had to manage the hiring of office space, furniture, phone and forex stands and submit all revenues to the Government. "However, revenue accrued has never been disclosed. Reports available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicate that the company collected 20,560 euro (sh58m) from hire of office space," said the audit.

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