Uganda’s MPs Probe U.S.$30 Million Fibre Optic Project

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Uganda Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) have directed the Auditor General to carry out a forensic audit on the national backbone and electronic government infrastructures (NBI/EGI).

Members of the Committee have since 2008 complained of irregularities in the procurement of the contractor and inflated costs in the construction of the cable indicating they were not satisfied with the way the $30 million was spent, according to the Ministry of Information Communication Technology information scientist, Kiirya Godfrey. "That is why they have asked the Auditor General to carry out a forensic audit of the NBI and EGI," he told The East African Business Week in Kampala last week.

He said the first phase of laying the country's optic fibre cable was completed and it covers the major towns of Jinja in eastern Uganda, Entebbe south of Kampala and Bombo which is to the north of Kampala. "This exercise is ongoing and the Auditor General will give his report appropriately," he said.

An industry source revealed to the East African Business Week that both the NBI and EGI were also damaged mainly by the road contractors and building companies who cut and dug up the cables on certain road sections. "Repair of the damages on phase 1 of the two projects are ongoing and are nearing completion, we scheduled to carry out tests by October 30, 2009," said a statement issued by the Ministry of ICT.

The statement said that the implementation of the $60 million second phase which was scheduled for implementation this financial year has been halted till phase one becomes operational. The second phase was expected to involve laying 1,543 kilometers of optic fibre cable that will link the major towns of Jinja, Bugiri, Busia, Tororo and Mbale in eastern Uganda.

"We have not authorized commencement of phase two, we are only undertaking repairs on Kampala-Jinja route and any fresh digging is not by the ministry," said the statement signed by Uganda's Minister of Information Communication Technology Aggrey Awori. However he said that it was misleading to compare the costs of laying the cable between Uganda and Rwanda. "The terrain and specifications are not similar because of the different terrain and distances spanned by cable," he said.

East African Business Week