Uganda denies deal on multi-billion dollar railway line

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NO DEAL: Uganda’s premier Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda says no deal has been reached with Chinese firm to build high speed multi-billion dollar railway line

The Uganda government says that it has not signed any substantive deal with China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC), a China-based company for the construction of the $8.5b (about Shillings 22 trillion) Standard Gauge Railway.

Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda told Parliament during a plenary session that President Yoweri Museveni only signed agreements regarding “general credit and principles” during his trip to China early this month but did not sign a definitive agreement handing the deal to the Chinese firm.

Rugunda was responding to an inquiry by the Lwemiyaga County Member of Parliament Theodore Ssekikubo who challenged him to table contracts of the agreements signed by President Museveni as required by the law.
Ssekikubo also asked Rugunda to explain why the government is conducting business related to the disputed Standard Gauge Railway deal despite an ongoing Parliamentary inquiry.

“We read in the tabloids that Uganda gets $4billion (about 12 trillion Shillings) in respect of the Standard Gauge Railway and the expansion of the Entebbe International Airport and indeed it shows that agreements were signed. Can the Prime Minister explain to this House whether these took place knowing very well that there is a Committee of Parliament that is investigating this matter?” Sekikubo asked.

But Dr Rugunda insisted that no conclusive agreements have been signed.“Yes, there were agreements signed but these were really agreements signed on general line of credit and principles. The detailed financial agreements have not been concluded and those agreements will –inevitably- as required by the laws of this House come to this August House,” Rugunda said.

Ssekikubo is one of the four legislators that petitioned Parliament pointing to irregularities in the manner in which the government cancelled an understanding with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and handed the coveted deal to China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC).

However, a Parliamentary Committee led by the Nakifuma County Member of Parliament Kafeero Ssekitoleko that has been investigating the controversies in the procurement since November last year is yet to file a report even with the deadline having expired in January.

Two additional requests for time have also been granted by the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga-with a one month additional time request granted in February. The Committee spent 185million Shillings in traveling to China to check out the two firms that have been wrangling over the deal and is planning another trip to Ethiopia -where a similar project is underway before filing a report.