Prof. Bukenya, Sam Kutesa named
Each vehicle hired at Shs 52m for 4 days
By Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda
The lease and purchase of 240 official limousines for the
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda had the
word scandal written all over.
The BMW station wagons arrived in the country without the
official stamp of the manufacturer; a plate usually placed
at the back of the vehicle to prove its originality.
The government had ordered automatic and petrol cars but
the supplier, Motocare Uganda, supplied a mixture of manual
and automatic cars, as well as diesel and petrol vehicles.
As a result, the Ministry of Works and Transport, which
imported the vehicles on behalf of government, has written
to Motocare demanding compensation to the tune of $260,000
(Shs 429 million). The Ministry is unhappy that the supplier
violated the sale agreement.
However, our sources indicate that the supplier has refused
to compensate the government, claiming that they supplied
even better cars than ordered. Some 210 BMWs were supplied
on a lease basis and an additional 30 sold to the government.
The Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, chaired
the Cabinet sub-committee on CHOGM.
According to accountability documents submitted to Parliament
by the Ministry of Works, the government spent Shs 26.3bn
on vehicles (transport) alone.
Some 144 BMWs were categorised as executive vehicles for
heads of state and ministers of foreign affairs; all these
were supplied by Motorcare Uganda/Intercar. The government
purchased 30 of these, each at Shs 124 million. This brings
the total amount spent on buying the 30 executive BMWs to
The remaining 114 executive vehicles were leased at Shs
52 million each, meaning the government spent Shs 5.9bn
The Shs 26.3bn spent on transport includes about Shs 5bn
spent on renting other vehicles; like buses, drivers’
accommodation, washing, allowances, etc.
A total of 1,241 vehicles were used during the CHOGM. Vehicles
such as the Subaru type used by the Police were supplied
by other companies.
Bukenya, Kutesa under spotlight
Way back in May 2005, Ministry of Works, Finance and other
officials took a decision to get CHOGM vehicles through
Consequently, 23 local firms were short listed. However,
Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya and Foreign Affairs
Minister, Sam Kutesa, stopped this process before the winners
could be picked.
Gilbert Bukenya later announced that the 240 executive vehicles
would not be purchased but leased. Only 30 executive vehicles
would be purchased. He was supported by Sam Kutesa.
Other ministers who supported the leasing option included
Hope Mwesigye (State for Local Government), Matia Kasaija
(State for Internal Affairs), and John Nasasira (Works and
According to our source, civil servants didn’t find
leasing feasible. They challenged the economic sense of
leasing vehicles at 74% of the total price for only four
days! But because Bukenya and Kutesa were fond of declaring
that their position was President Museveni’s directive,
the ministers had their way.
A Cabinet source has told The Weekly Observer that indeed
Bukenya and Kutesa persuaded the President that leasing
was the best option.
They even organised a separate meeting in which they asked
businessmen Sudhir Ruparelia, Patrick Bitature and James
Mulwana to advise on leasing vis-a-vis purchase.
According to our source, because the businessmen were not
briefied on the amount involved, they supported leasing.
The support of businessmen was reportedly used to convince
President Museveni that leasing was a cheaper option.
Around April 2007, Bukenya and Kutesa, quoting State House,
directed that majority of vehicles be leased.
The civil servants’ view that leasing a car at Shs
52 million for only four days was wasteful, was ignored.
They had wanted the government to buy the cars and then
keep or sell them after the event to recover the money.
Some of the vehicles, like the one meant for the Australia
Prime Minister who didn’t come, were not used and
could still have been sold at a good price. But having been
leased, the government had to spend heavily on them.
Of the 23 firms that had submitted bids, only two –
Spear Motors and Motocare – reportedly had the capacity
to lease and sell some vehicles to the government.
The two companies were therefore asked to submit bids for
the supply of the 240 vehicles.
When the bids were opened, Gordon Wavamunno of Spear Motors
had the better proposal. He was selling Mercedes Benz cars
at a lower price and leasing at a slightly higher price
Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya stopped this process
and awarded the tender to supply vehicles to Motocare Uganda,
notwithstanding the fact that letters awarding the tender
to Wavamunno had already been prepared.
Wavamunno, who had started negotiating with government,
decided to sue the government.
Sources have told The Weekly Observer that Prime Minister,
Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, was not pleased that Wavamunno who
is said to be his friend had lost the tender. But he could
do little since his superior, Prof. Bukenya, had intervened.
Minutes of preparatory meetings actually show that Bukenya
called his move a “political decision.”
German cars airlifted from France
By the time this back and forth movement over cars was
complete, it was June-July 2007, too late to bring in the
limousines through the sea route via Mombasa.
It was decided that they be airfreighted. This cost taxpayers
over $1million (Shs 1.6bn). The 80 Police motorcycles were
also squeezed into the aircrafts flying the cars.
The cost of shipping a car from Europe to Uganda is about
Shs 1.6million, but the CHOGM limousines were airlifted
at Shs 6.6 million each!
And the vehicles were not airlifted from Germany where they
were reportedly manufactured, but from France.
The supplier reportedly claimed that France was the BMW
dispatch point for Africa.
Earlier, during the haggling, Bukenya and Kutesa had insisted
that some station wagons be included.
This was contrary to the decision to use saloon cars that
had been reached after consultations with diplomats from
When CHOGM vehicles finally arrived, they did not match
the demanded specifications. The government had ordered
automatic vehicles but some manual cars were included.
The government had ordered petrol cars but some diesel vehicles
were included. In one of their meetings, the IGP Maj. Gen.
Kale Kayihura reportedly raised the issue of some of the
vehicles having defects, but he was advised to keep mum
as the revelation would scare away some of the visitors.
There is suspicion that some of the vehicles were factory
rejects. Factory damage by European standards is something
that may not be recognised by non-technicians.
The CID investigation here focuses on whether the vehicles
were authentic BMWs.
For the sake of uniformity, President Museveni was also
driven in one of the BMWs reserved for visiting heads of
All drivers had been invited for a short training session
on how to use these cars but Museveni’s driver didn’t
As Museveni’s convoy returned from Entebbe International
Airport to see off Queen Elizabeth II, his BMW automatically
locked the President inside. Security sources have told
The Weekly Observer that this caused panic. However, they
later overcame this hiccup and drove the big man to his
CHOGM cars still arriving
As if the vehicle defects were not bad enough, some vehicles
ordered for the November event have just arrived into the
country, six months after CHOGM. Others are reportedly still
on the way.
For instance, the government ordered a refrigeration car
to be used for the heads of state spouses programme. The
type of vehicle ordered is supposed to have cookers, freezers,
This vehicle has just arrived and is still in the bond.
Victoria Motors was given the offer on October 16, 2007
to supply the refrigeration vehicle.
Another car meant to carry dogs to boost security arrived
months after CHOGM. It is still in the bond. It was supplied
by Toyota Uganda Limited, which was contracted on October
16, less than a month to the event!
Two of the 23 ambulances ordered are yet to arrive in the
country. The two, according to documents before Parliament,
were involved in accidents and will be replaced.
All this shows that late preparations were responsible
for the confusion that engulfed an otherwise successful
The slogan was “Are You Ready for CHOGM”, but
quite clearly the organisers needed a lot more time to be