JINJA, Uganda: Operative from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) today morning arrested the mayor of Jinja municipality, Majid Batambuze. The Mayor was allegedly detained at CMI headquarters, Mbuya – Kampala, on charges of fraud. Batambuze who is also the chairman of the Urban Authorities Association of Uganda is alleged to have several cases of fraud according to sources at the Jinja Municipal Council.
“Mayor Majid is being held at CMI over allegations of conning an investor of $160000 being brought by a governor of a certain district (not Jinja). He lied to the investor that he was selling to him land in Nalufeenya village adjacent to the new bridge which land doesn’t belong to him,” revealed one source that requested not to be named for fear of his security “because the matter is involving names even bigger than that of Batambuze himself.”
But another source said that Majid, when the Resident District Commissioner for Budaka, sold some swamp land in Budaka to some European investors at Shs6bn which land the buyers never got because the seller didn’t own it. “So what I know is that they have been looking for him through Interpol for a long time,” a big government official intimated to us a few minutes ago.
Julis Zakayo, one of Batambuze’s aides confirmed to this writer that the mayor is at CMI where he (Zakayo) had gone to find out the exact reason for the mayor’s detainment. “I am outside CMI here but the guys (operatives) are very furious. I am not sure whether I will be able to talk to the mayor but from a distance, I can see a car like his inside (CMI courtyard),” he said by telephone at around 3:40pm today.
However, before the dust raised by councilors settled, another accusation was directed to Batambuze. Multiplex Limited, one of the firms that had applied for the construction of Eng. Zikusooka Way and Main Street petitioned PPDA seeking for an administrative review in respect to the tender.
On November 3, 2017 the PPDA wrote to Grindstone Ltd, Rock Trust Uganda, Chongping International Construction Corporation, Stirling Civil Engineering Ltd, China Railway 18th Bureau Group Co. Ltd, Spider Contractor Ltd- Rhino Investments Ltd (JV), Traminco (U) Ltd Traminco SARL and Multiplex Uganda Ltd notifying them of an application seeking to review the tender.
“The Authority received an application for Administrative Review from Multiplex Limited, Alshams (JV) citing irregularities in the tender for rehabilitation of Main Street and Eng. Zikusooka Way,” stated Benson Turamye the acting PPDA Executive Director.
‘In accordance with section 91 of PPDA Act, of 2003, you are notified of this complaint and instructed to file with us any relevant information you may have on this procurement not later than Thursday 9th November 2017,” added Turamye. “In the meantime, the procurement process has been suspended while authority reviews the tender process to ascertain allegations.”
What went wrong?
In the 13 October 2017 petition to PPDA by multiplex (that we obtained), Multiplex through their lawyers, Tusiime, Kabega and Co Advocates noted that the application was not valid because there was no payment of the prescribed fee in the PPDA guidelines, as required under the Local Governments (PPDA) Regulations, sector 138 (3).
They submitted that Jinja Municipal Council (the procuring entity) should have requested Multiplex Limited to substitute its payment so as to align with a payment method, the procuring entity it considered valid and/or preferred. The lawyers noted in their petition that there was additionally no method availed to the bidders by the Procuring entity in the instructions to the bidders.
On July 3 2017, Jinja Municipal Council, the procuring entity, accepted an Administrative Review Application by Multiplex Limited- Alshams (JV) which was accompanied by a cheque of UG Shs10 million.
Did money exchange hands?
The tender, to the tune of US$ 4 million (UG Shs14.2b) is rather a juicy one indeed. Rumor at the town hall (Jinja Municipal Council) was that Batambuze had pocketed a hooping 500 million shillings bribe from one of the firms to have the tender given to it.
“But I want to tell you, I could never and can’t receive any money from them. I only know one of the firms but if the authorities decide that we don’t consider them then I will not say anything,” Batambuze told this writer in October last year from his office at the town hall.
There were also allegations that the Jinja Town Clerk, Francis Byabagambi was bribed by the South Sudanese firm, Stars Group, which was awarded the tender. What we discovered rather was that Stars Group was incorporated in 1981 in South Sudan. Their website (www.starsgroup_ss.com) reveals that the firm has been in construction since then with major works done in Lebanon, Beirut and Afghanistan totaling over $30million.
What looks “fishy” though is that Plateaux, one of the firms that had earlier bidden for the same road works in Jinja and was rejected, is actually under the Star Group, the one that bid later and won the tender. On the website this is what welcomes you;
STARS GROUP LTD its incorporation in 1981 and it’s a mother company for Plateaux Services Co located in South Sudan, O’ general for lubricant located in Dubai and Stars Company located in Lebanon. It has grown and developed to become an established and recognized company in all sectors of the building and road industry. Projects completed over the past 31 years, ranging in value of $1m – $30m.
The designs of the roads in Jinja were carried out by M/S Silesh Consult with M/S SABA Engineering from Ethiopia. “The firm that gave him money want their 500 million and I am told that is why he has been arrested,” one of his friends told us. By the time we filed this report, some sources were informing us that the Mayor was due for temporary release.