MPs in Uganda Cite Foul Play in Shs250 Billion Internet backbone project

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Parliament last wee opened investigations into allegations of corruption in the $126 million (about Shs252 billion) National Backbone Infrastructure Project.
Citing inflated costs and foul play, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday ordered Dr Pat Samanya, the permanent secretary in the ICT ministry, to provide details of the project.
"The Auditor General has asked us to investigate this Project," PAC Chairman Nandala Mafabi said. "We have got information that officials in the ICT ministry connived to inflate the costs and taxpayers have lost billions of shillings in the process."
ICT ministry officials were last week appearing before PAC to answer audit queries for 2008-2009 where it emerged that the tax obligations for the faster Internet project was inflated from Shs2.6 billion to Shs7.5 billion through unclear circumstances.
The 2,130 kilometre project aims to speed up e-governance by providing a basic communication link to rural communities and improving service delivery in key areas such as health, education and agriculture. Dr Samanya apologised to the committee and promised to provide details on the project.
PAC investigations come a year after the ICT committee also questioned the $126 million (about Shs252b) cost for the national ICT project, arguing that Rwanda was carrying out a similar project across 2,300km at only $38m (about Shs76b).
Among issues in the Auditor General's report to be investigated by PAC, include reports that although Parliament had halted Phase II of the project, demanding for accountability of the Shs60b for Phase I of the project was spent, the ministry defied the directive.
Details before PAC show that Phase I was budgeted at $30 million (about Shs60b), Phase II at $61m (about Shs122b) and Phase III at $15m (about Shs30b) with an additional $20m (about Shs40b) budgeted as government counterpart funding.
"This (Internet) project has become a national scandal and synonymous with the ID (about Shs253b) and Chogm (Shs500b) projects," Shadow Finance Minister Oduman Okello said.
The first phase of the project covered Kampala, Entebbe, Bombo and Jinja. Although it was completed last year, but PAC last weel said they have reliable information that only the switch centre in Kampala site is operational.