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Minister, MPs blocked from accessing Lubowa hospital site

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng and Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine and Committees on Health and National Economy enied access to the construction site of the specialised hospital in Lubowa. PHOTO via @Parliament_Ug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament, Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng and Permanent Secretary Diana Atwiine were today blocked from accessing the site for the construction of the proposed International Specialized Hospital Uganda, in Lubowa.

A team from Parliament’s National Economy Committee had gone to monitor ongoing works at the 30-acre facility along the Kampala-Entebbe Road. The MPs sought permission from the Health Ministry to visit the site.

But the group was stopped by Local Defence Unit personnel and Police Officers guarding the facility, on grounds that they were under instruction not to grant access to anyone.

The Hospital site gates were heavily sealed with a grader and a pickup truck parked exactly at the entrance of the facility, which is fenced with green iron sheets with no inscription of FINASI/ROKO SPV as before.

Government early this year approved a loan Guarantee of 379 million USD to Finasi/ROKO for the construction of Specialized Hospital. However, the project has been marred with controversies. Recently, ROKO, one of the project partners said that it was being unfairly kicked out in favour of a new company, Power China Guizhou Engineering Co, Ltd. ROKO has since run to court seeking to cancel the move by FINASI international FZC chaired by Enrica Pinnet.

According to ROKO Director Mark Koehler, the SPV indicates that no other companies other than FINASI, ROKO or FINASI/ROKO and its affiliates can be subcontracted work in the hospital of more than 15 per cent, according to the contract.

It is on the basis of the controversies that the MPs sought to go to the site. But the group spent close to 1 hour trying to plead with security guards for access, which was denied, prompting them to return to parliament frustrated.

Committee Chairperson Syda Bbumba blamed the Ministry of Health for failing to take charge of its own project.

Bbumba also expressed dismay that the contractor is blocking legislators from performing their oversight role.

Kabale Municipality MP Andrew Aja Baryayanga, one of the MPs blocked from accessing the site described the development as unfortunate. He says Ministry of Health who is the owner of the project too appears helpless.

Busongora County North MP William Nzoghu says that blocking MPs points to suspicion and corruption.

But Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng says although they own the project, there are several complications that need to be corrected.

She says that the visit was interrupted by a communication from the Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi to the Speaker of Parliament to stop MPs from going to Lubowa hospital.

In a letter dated August 2, to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Muhakanizi said that the Government has no powers on the site which has already been handed over to the contractor. He added that the case of the Lubowa hospital is already before the court and any interference is subject to contempt of court.

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