Masindi district officials have been placed under investigation for stealing more than Sh2.1 billion that was earmarked for the science lab and computer lab at Budongo Secondary School.
Some of the school buildings already have cracks four months after being opened for service.
The UGNEWS24 delved deeply into the way Masindi civil servants syphoned off a portion of the shs 2.1 billion intended to build Budongo Secondary School as well as the losses the government suffered as a result of the project.
When the school was in a terrible state five years ago, the government released 2.1 billion shillings through the Uganda intergovernmental fiscal transfer programme to build Budongo secondary school and give it a makeover.
The construction of an academic square, a science building, a library building, a playground, and staff quarters was required, and CMD was selected as the contractor.
The project, which took two years to complete, was handed over to the government on April 21 of this year.
According to Sunday Eyotu, the lc3 chairperson of Nyantonzi subcounty, who was on the front line to oversee the project, this was the beginning of exposing the project’s shoddy work.
Eyotu claims that despite their best efforts, they encountered challenges from the officials in charge of the project as they oversaw it.
The concerned parties, including the district engineer who was the direct supervisor, the office of the cao, and the district chairperson, “challenged us on the way,” he said.
The contractor failed to complete the task he was hired to complete. For instance, the science lab’s equipment, estimated to cost 210 million shillings, and more than 20 computers in the computer lab still need to be delivered.
According to the contractor, “The science lab was supposed to be stocked with equipment and chemicals, and the same was true for the ICT lab, which was supposed to be equipped with computers,” said Eyotu.
The water system that was supposed to supply the science lab is no longer able to pump water, forcing the school to rely on rainwater despite having infrastructure in place to catch the water that is already dripping from the roofs.
The project was supposed to be between the defect liability period, according to the LC3 chairperson, but nothing has been done as of yet.
Not only that, but flaws in a few of the school buildings served to aggravate the situation. When the Nile post arrived at the school, it was clear that the cracks were being filled.
The poor construction extends even to the school’s playground, which is estimated to have cost 87 million shillings to build.
The 87 million shillings that were spent on its construction are evident in the bushy pitch intended to be planted with pass palm.
The pitch isn’t worth the money invested in it, according to the school’s oversight committee, on which the president’s representative also sits.
The pitch fell short of expectations in terms of what it was supposed to be.
Ngabilano Immy, RDC for the Masindi district, says council members continue to discuss the school’s situation at meetings and question who stole the money.
“Those who are concerned keep claiming that the money was swept back to the centre, but the district chief administrative officer says it is not true, which is confusing us,” says Acdiri Councillor for the subcounty, Christopher Nyantonzi.
How, then, did the government agree to accept and commission a project in such a state while still paying the contractor in full?
The project, according to Ngabilano, the Rdc of Masindi, is in good shape, though questions should be raised about the 210 million shillings that went missing. He also notes that the contractor was paid in full before the defect liability period expired.
However, Sanyu Phionah, the current CAO of Masindi, asserts that the accounting officers are still responsible for revealing the whereabouts of the funds despite having inherited the issue after moving to the Masindi district.
“We are establishing facts, but the parties concerned (the then CAO Nkurunziza Geoffrey, DEO Kyomuhendo Francis, district engineer Baguma David, and the CFO) must first give an explanation before we can determine who is responsible,” according to Sanyu.
Even though some of those involved, such as CAO Nkurunziza Geoffrey, were moved to a different district, this mess occurred between the financial years 2018–2019, 2020–2021, and its final results are now difficult for some civil servants to swallow.
The Sanyu Phionah chief administrative officer of the Masindi district then established an ADHOC committee to look into how the Budongo seed secondary school funding was used.
The five-person committee’s findings, including how the money was spent and the losses the government incurred, were given to UGNEWS24 exclusively.
The contractor CMD received full payment for the 2.1BN project cost.
210 million dollars intended for ICT equipment were diverted to other purposes during the budgeting process. This was the first time 210M had ever lost.
Data from the district shows that the missing 210 million shillings were spent as follows: 61 million for monitoring and supervision; 56 million for construction projects under the School Facilitation Grant; and 92 million for secondary school construction projects.
All of these had their own unique budgets within the district budget and weren’t a part of the seed school project.
Anti-corruption organisations in Bunyoro draw attention to how taxes are lost as a result of official corruption.
The executive director of MIRAC, Ismail Kusemerwewa, claims that even though government officials claim to have removed the 6% tax, they have lost more than 25 million shillings in withholding tax.
The second loss was a 25 million dollar tax payment. On an advance payment of more than 420M, the contractor CMD was not charged with holding tax close to 25M.
Additionally, the contractor received a 74M overpayment that the local government classified as a payment of retention fees even though the contractor’s DEFECT LIABILITY of 6 months had not yet come to an end, resulting in a third loss of 74M.
What will happen to the students who must now complete their practicals in a lab without equipment?
According to anti-corruption organisations, locals will receive subpar services because funds intended for their equipment are allegedly being embezzled, as stated by Ismail.
If the RDC’s petition to the ministry of health is successful in getting the school some relief funding to purchase some lab equipment, that could potentially change everything.