Language Barrier Distracts MPs Interaction With Chinese Contractors

2583 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises-COSASE faced a hurdle when it emerged that their visitors could only express themselves in Chinese, a language no other member was conversant with.

Drama ensued in parliaments committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises-(COSASE), Thursday, following a language barrier between Members of Parliament and summoned Chinese officials.

The nine officials from five Chinese construction companies were summoned to explain an expenditure of 47.7 billion Shillings advanced by Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to compensate persons affected by various road construction projects, across the country, two years ago.

But the Auditor General observed in his June 2015 audit report that the money could not be accounted for, citing the absence of a status report to verify the progress of compensation.

Related documents presented to COSASE indicate that only 15 billion Shillings was paid out to persons affected by the road projects.

The companies to which money was advanced include China Railway 18th Group (12.9billion), China Railway No.3 Group (12.9billion), Zhongmei Engineering (96.5billion), China Railway No.5 Group (8.4billion) and Chongqing International Construction Company (7billion).

They were contracted to undertake projects of Musita-Lumino-Busia, Kanoni-Sembabule-Villa, Olwiyo Gulu, Gulu-Acholibur and Acholibur-Musingo respectively.

On Thursday Zhu Weidong, Yu Qianming, Wanb Yibu, Li Chim, Ding Hui, Lizigang, Roger Ma, Chang Chong and Simon Dong presented themselves before the Committee chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu to explain the status of the compensations.

They however could hardly understand questions put to them in English even after confirming to the committee that they were conversant with the English language, the official language in parliament.

The committee later faced a hurdle when it emerged that their visitors could only express themselves in Chinese, a language no other member was conversant with.

The committee was later sent into confusion when the Business manager of China Railway No.5 Group Roger Ma presented a bank statement from the Bank of China written in Chinese.

Upon viewing the document, committee chairperson Abdul Katuntu was dumbstruck, only to mention moments later that he did not want to open up a conversation about the document.

The language barrier led to the suspension of the committee sitting.
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About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.