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Chinese national masqueraded as a Eutaw official

Nui Hong, a prosecution witness in the corruption trial of former minister Abraham Byandala, has revealed that he worked for both Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICCO) and Eutaw, the companies at the center of the botched Mukono-Katosi road contract.

Hong, testified on Friday at the Anti-Corruption court. Byandala, the former minister for works and transport, is charged with abuse of office, disobedience of lawful orders and influence-peddling. His co-accused include: Ssebbugga Kimeze, a former acting executive director of Unra; Joe Ssemugooma, Unra’s former acting director for finance and administration, and Marvin Baryaruha, the former Unra legal counsel.

Apolo Senkeeto, who introduced himself as the country representative for Eutaw, and Isaac Mugote, a former Housing Finance bank employee, are accused of aiding Eutaw to forge a bid security document that helped the company win the contract.

When he first testified, on September 22, Nui, a Chinese national, told court that at the time of signing the contract, he was strictly CICCO’s country manager. He also explained that much as the contract was given to Eutaw, it had sub-contracted CICCO to implement 95 per cent of the works at a tune of Shs 155bn. All was well, until defence lawyers on Friday cross-examined Nui. In the end, he exposed himself as a double-dealer.

Former roads minister Abraham Byandala (L) greets his lawyer Nsubuga Mubiru

First, Kimeze’s lawyer Ivan Engoru pinned Nui using minutes of a Unra meeting dated March 13, 2014. He said Nui attended that meeting as Eutaw’s ‘authorized representative in Uganda.’  On seeing the document, Nui went mum but trial Justice Lawrence Gidudu pushed him to explain the discrepancy.

“At the time, I didn’t know why they were calling me because at that time I was still working for CICCO,” Nui said.

But Justice Gidudu asked him how he could have attended a meeting yet at the time CICCO hadn’t yet been sub-contracted by Eutaw.

“I cannot remember well why I attended that meeting,” he said.

Engoru also pointed him to a letter dated February 25, 2014 in which Richard Pratt, Eutaw’s director, informed Unra that Nui had been given the company’s powers of attorney. 

With that, Engoru put it to Nui that Kimeze worked with him under the impression that he was an authorized and genuine Eutaw official.

“We had to pass [off] as Eutaw officials because we had to get the money,” Nui said in wrong grammar, “and it’s Eutaw which had the contract; so, we had to be seen as them.”

Engoru then asked Nui to explain why Pratt gave him Eutaw’s powers of attorney, which will expire in 2017. “Like I said,” Nui said, “we did all of this because we wanted to get the money since Eutaw had got the contract.”

BYANDALA

Nui justified CICCO’s involvement in the deal using a letter dated August 27, 2014, in which Byandala was directing John Byabagambi, then works junior minister, to allow the Chinese company take over construction of the road. 

However, Nui found himself on the back foot when Nsubuga Mubiru, Byandala’s lawyer, asked him to explain how he got the letter yet it was an internal document, which was never copied to him.

“I don’t know if it [letter] was internal or external but we somehow got it,” Nui said, attracting laughter from the court as Justice Gidudu shook his head.

Nui had no clear explanation, when Justice Gidudu asked him why he was absent during the ground-breaking ceremony presided over by President Museveni on July 1, 2014.

The judge alluded to a testimony by Martin Olwao, a former project engineer with Unra, who said that during the groundbreaking ceremony, the president waved to a tent where Eutaw officials were expected to have been sitting but no one waved back since it was empty.

“I don’t remember well why I never attended because I expected my boss to be there,” Nui said.  Asked by Senkeeto who is representing himself, if he [Senkeeto] stole any money, Nui said “I’m not the judge. You will have to wait for his judgment.”

Government ombudsman Irene Mulyagonja suspended the Mukono-Katosi road contract with Eutaw Construction Company following irregularities in the award of the tender and the dubious advance payment of Shs 24 billion to the company by Unra. Trial resumes on September 27, 2016.

dkiyonga@observer.ug
 

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