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May 22, 2008
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 Shs 3.7bn.
The remaining 114 executive vehicles were leased at Shs 52 million each, meaning the government spent Shs 5.9bn on leasing.

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 competitive bidding.

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 Transport).

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.

Wavamunno shortchanged

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 than Motocare.
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 various embassies.

Fake cars

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 state.
All drivers had been invited for a short training session on how to use these cars but Museveni’s driver didn’t show up.

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 destination.

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, etc.

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 CHOGM.
The slogan was “Are You Ready for CHOGM”, but quite clearly the organisers needed a lot more time to be ready.



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