Trade Ministry Denies Using Shs400m to Transport Documents From Kampala To Entebbe 

The permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade, Industries and Cooperatives, Geraldine Ssali has said the Shs400M that Parliament is accusing her Ministry of spending to transport documents from Kampala to Entebbe as the Ministry was preparing to vacate Farmers’ House for renovations is exaggerated.

It should be recalled that yesterday, lawmakers on Parliament’s Trade Committee asked officials from the Ministry of Trade to explain circumstances under which Shs400 million was spent on the transporting of files from Kampala to Entebbe during the rehabilitation process at Farmers’ House.

Taking to her twitter handle, Geraldine Ssali, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade expressed what she termed as serious concerns about the proceedings in parliament and media reports vowed to provide the right information to government bodies and keep them updated on developments at the Ministry.

“On the issue of transporting registry documents from Farmers House to Entebbe. I would like to clarify that Contrary to the exaggerated figure of Shs400m, the actual cost incurred by the Ministry was Shs59.3m. This includes various expenses such as disassembling furniture, packaging materials, hiring cargo tracks, labour and fuel.” wrote Ssali.

During the Committee proceedings, MPs tasked the Ministry of Trade to explain how the price of the renovation of the Ministry’s offices at Farmers’ House rose from Shs3.1Bn as quoted by Ministry of Works, to Shs6.2Bn later paid by the Ministry of Trade, after a whistle blower alerted Parliament that this price had been exaggerated.

This was after Evarist Ahimbisibwe, the former Principle Administrative Secretary at the Ministry, told Parliament that his refusal to append his signature to the with inflated prices, attracted career repercussions for him and saw his bosses orchestrate his transfer to another Ministry, and the deal was finally sealed by his subordinate.

In her response to these allegations, Ssali explained that the Ministry received funding to a tune of Shs8Bn meant to procure office space for Ministry offices because Farmers’ House was found to be highly dilapidated. The Ministry had also requested for Shs3Bn for partitioning the new office premises and Shs2Bn for purchase of furniture.

“My team and I after weighing all the options decided that we shall renovate at a much lower cost than incurring recurrent costs on rent annually. The decision to rent at Shs8Bn would have been regressive against the objective and counterproductive to say the least,” said Ssali.

The Permanent Secretary added that with the ongoing rationalisation process of Government agencies, the Ministry is slated to home to three more agencies including; Uganda Warehouse Receipting Systems Authority, Uganda Export Promotions Board and Uganda Freezones Authority, a merger that will require additional space 2500-3000 square meters that would cost Shs10Bn annually in rent annually.

The Ministry is also being probed over the purchase laptops for staff members to work from home, totalling Shs 162 million, and procured five used vehicles at a cost of Shs 600 million each, allegations Ssali clarified noting, “The Ministry procured 38 laptops for staff to work from home during renovations. However, it’s important to note that the laptops were individually picked up from Farmers House and not delivered to individual homes.

Mwine Mpaka, Chairperson Trade Committee in his fresh summons against Ssali wants her to provide accountability for all the funds released for this project, arguing that out of the total funds received by the Ministry, which amounted to over Shs10 billion, only Shs5 billion has been properly accounted for.

Mpaka stated that they would request the Speaker to summon Ssali, and if she refuses to appear, a criminal summons would be issued, after the Permanent Secretary declined to appear before the Committee again under the pretext that she had availed all the documents before the Committee.

This article first appeared on business focus

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