Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday questioned Ministry of Works and Transport officials for hiring private architects to design buildings, despite the ministry having architect staff.
Officials from the Ministry had appeared before the committee to respond to queries raised in the financial year 2018/2019 audit report.
In the report, Auditor General John Muwanga noted that although the Ministry budgeted to spend 2.7 billion Shillings to support computerized driving permits, only 2.3 billion Shillings was released but the Ministry never utilized the funds fully. PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi questioned how the funds were spent.
Winston Katusabe, the Commissioner of Transport and Road Safety at the Ministry said that the funds were for the construction of office premises for computerized driving permits, currently undertaken by Face Technologies, where the contractor is renting premises at Kyambogo.
He said that initially, there were plans to construct offices at Uganda Transport License Board, but these were dropped and changed to Uganda Railway Corporation, a decision that saw Ministry pay an additional cost for change in designs.
Katusabe explained that the decision to acquire new offices was in fulfillment of recommendations from Parliament and the change in location led to cost variance of about 192 million Shillings.
Bukoto East MP Florence Namayanja and Nandala demanded a specific report on the matter before any further inquiries are carried out.
Bunyole West MP James Waluswaka tasked the officials to explain why they hire out such services. He questioned why the Ministry hires consultants to design buildings yet they have engineers who can design the buildings.
In response, Waiswa Bageya, the Permanent Secretary explained that although the Ministry has a department for public structures which has quantity surveyors and architectures, the internal capacity is still low.
“But we are moving towards that direction that eventually we can be able to do those plans ourselves. The problem emanates from structural adjustments. When we went through restructuring, they said the ministry let these activities be privatized and the Ministry can only be there for policy guidance and supervision that is why our capacity was eroded,” said Bageya.
Samson Bagonza, the Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Works said that the absence of capacity is not in terms of experience but terms of numbers.
But PAC Chairperson Nandala Nandala Mafabi said the Ministry should have retained and maintained the old structure of engineers that would have acted as a model in government.
“Your supervisors should have said this is our baby, let us sit on it and work on it. You would use all the knowledge and cut on expenses. It would be one of the examples why you need internal capacity in government,” Nandala noted.