Railway Inquiry: Washington Closely Following Proceedings

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In short
But the SGR probe committee Chairperson Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko told journalists that the two officials informed members that Washington was closely following the committee proceedings.

The inquiry into the controversial procurement of China Harbor Engineering Company for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway has drawn the attention of the Kampala US embassy. Last year, government contracted China Harbor Engineering Company to construct the Standard Gauge Railway at the tune of UGX 22 Trillion.
However, MPs Theodore Ssekikubo, Abdu Katuntu, Wilfred Niwagaba and Barnabas Tinkasimire petitioned parliament citing flaws in the procurement process.  They accused government of handpicking the company as opposed to the open bidding process, which is provided for in the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority- PPDA act. As a result, Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of parliament appointed a select committee to investigate the deal.
The committee has heard from several witnesses including key ministry officials and recently Rosa Whitaker, the former Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa.  The inquiry has drawn the attention of the US government. On Tuesday, Carla Benini, the Deputy Counselor Political and Economic Affairs at the US embassy in Kampala met the committee members behind closed doors. He was accompanied by Emmanuel Bagenda, the Kampala US Embassy Political and Economic Advisor.
It came a day after Whitaker testified before the same committee on her involvement in the railway deal since she recommended China Harbour Engineering Company, which was handed the deal to President Yoweri Museveni. Shortly after the closed door meeting, Benini declined speaking to the media and instead referred to the Public Affairs Officer Daniel Travis, who didn't pick up his phone.
But the SGR probe committee Chairperson Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko told journalists that the two officials informed members that Washington was closely following the committee proceedings.

He said also said the officials said, Washington had instructed the embassy to keep it posted on the work of the committee and any other issues that may come up.  According to Ssekitoleko, the US embassy officials said they didn't want to rely on hearsay and the media that is why they opted to talk to the committee directly.

He says during the meeting, the officials inquired on the findings and recommendations but he advised them to wait since the investigations are still ongoing.
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 This morning, the committee is scheduled to meet Steven Chebrot, the state minister for Transport and former Works Ministry Permanent secretary Chris Muganzi.

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The Committee is also scheduled to travel to China later this week to visit the headquarters of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, which are fighting over the project.
The Committee will also visit Ethiopia where a similar project is underway.  Kenya which is part of the larger regional railway project has declined to be part of the inquiry.

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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.