By Max Patrick Ocaido
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, has revealed how Finasi/Roko Construction SPV Limited contractor regularly threatens her on phone for ‘frustrating’ the construction of controversial International Specialized Hospital of Uganda in Lubowa.
Dr. Atwine on Thursday while appearing before the Parliamentary committee on National Economy along with the Health Minister Dr Jane Aceng revealed her encounter with Enrica Pinetti, the Italian investor of Finasi/Roko Construction SPV Limited, saying that the investor several times calls her on phone and accuses her of delaying construction works.
Atwine told MPs that the investor is pressurizing the Ministry and has reached the extent of threatening her if they do not give them a green light to proceed with the works despite pending technical and legal issues.
In March 2019, parliament approved promissory notes of $379 million (over Shs1.4trn) for the construction of the specialized Hospital in Lubowa and subsequently, the contract was awarded to Finasi/Roko Construction SPV Limited as a joint contractor.
Whereas the civil works are anticipated to take duration of 2years after its commencement on June 10, 2019, works have stalled following a legal dispute filed in the High Court by Roko protesting a move by Finasi to sideline them for a Chinese subcontractor, M/s PowerChina Guizhou Engineering Co.Ltd.
“Just this morning, I received a letter from the developer [Finasi] accusing me, saying they are going to penalize me personally because I have delayed to approve the Chinese [subcontractor],” Atwine said.
Atwine said that Finasi wants the ministry to approve the Chinese subcontractor even without them submitting the due diligence report for scrutiny.
“I wrote back and told them to give me the due diligence report, a report to show that they had a resolution and are registered by the registrar of companies. They must also prove that this person has ever done the hospital of this magnitude and they give me the scope of works they have done,” she added.
Atwine said that the developer has also on several occasions called her on phone threatening her to allow the site engineer, Francis Wakabi to work despite parliament’s resolution ordering the ministry to appoint a new owner’s engineer. Apparently, Wakabi has also refused to vacate office saying his contract starts with the commencement of civil works.
“I will put a foot on this one and ensure that one person will not supervise this project because this is a big and strategic project and we shall no t allow this kind of manipulation. They told us that the engineer [Wakabi] has been with us since the project was piloted and that Banks will have issues if he is not around. So we gave them up to 6months to allow smooth transition and their time is up, but Mr. Wakabi has refused to hand over instead he wrote a long document objecting the move,” Atwine said.
Atwine said that there is need to constitute a team of steering committee who are not necessarily engineers to give proper guidance on the project. Health minister Aceng told Parliament today that whereas the Ministry of Health has no objection to the approval of the proposed sub-contractor as requested by Finasi, “we have reserved our approval as we await the opinion of the learned Attorney General as to whether any such approval would not be construed as contempt of court.”
Aceng said that the ministry on June 21, 2019, held an initial Project Meeting with the contractor in which the contractor presented several proposals for approval of the Chinese sub-contractor and that these proposals are undergoing scrutiny by Ministry of Health.
In a bid to amicably resolve the ongoing shareholding dispute between Finasi and Roko, Minister Aceng said that they have requested for a meeting with the President and the stakeholders to provide guidance on the matter.
Aceng says that despite the challenges, her ministry has put in place mitigation measures to ensure that the progress and quality of works is not affected.