President Museveni has rescinded an order he gave on April 21, instructing government entities not to deal with road construction firm, Dott Services, The Observer has learnt.
Several highly placed sources in government told The Observer yesterday that the decision to reverse the order came after the attorney general, William Byaruhanga, recently advised the president that the order was “unconstitutional” and could be challenged.
According to our sources, Byaruhanga reportedly told the president that the Constitution does not grant him power to give executive orders, warning that government could be sued. The attorney general proposed that in the new constitutional amendments being worked on, a provision for such orders will be included.
“The president instructed Byaruhanga to draft something overturning the order. I have seen correspondences to this effect,” said one of the sources, who attended one of the meetings.
In one of the meetings at State House Entebbe, our sources say, Museveni reportedly said his intention was not to cripple the firm, which depends largely on government, but to send a strong message to companies “which do shoddy work.”
Museveni issued the first order after High court judge Stephen Musota nullified the findings and recommendation of a government commission of inquiry blacklisting Dott Services on grounds that there is no evidence to prove that the company was responsible for the delays and losses incurred by Unra.
“An entity that wants to be shielded from being investigated should not expect to participate in government projects,” Museveni said in his letter then, copied to Byaruhanga.
The president’s order came days after one person died along the 102-kilometre Mbale-Tirinyi-Iganga highway and several others sustained injuries, after a passenger service vehicle was swept away by a heavy downpour in late April.
The affected vehicle was travelling along a diversion beside one of the three bridges under construction, as part of the rehabilitation project for the 102-kilometre highway, when the bridge and diversion gave way under the weight of the fast-flowing water.
Over the last 10 years, Dott Services has come under fire for the way it executed a number of high-profile road contracts, including the 58-kilometre Jinja–Kamuli road, as well as the Tororo-Mbale and Mbale-Soroti roads.
In July 2016, not so long after President Museveni had commissioned the newly rehabilitated Tororo-Mbale- Soroti highway, the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) ordered the contractor, Dott Services, to re-do sections of the road.
At the time, the Unra executive director, Allen Kagina, said the authority was not satisfied with the work that Dott Services had put into the Shs 190bn project. She described some of the work as “not up to standard.”
However, as the attorney general has advised, the president cannot use those protests to take a legally binding decision against Dott Services. Our sources said in order to save face, government had decided not to make public the retraction order.
Several efforts to talk to Byaruhanga were futile. An assistant who picked his phone last evening said he was engaged in meetings. Works Minister Monica Ntege also didn’t respond to our calls, saying in a text that she, too, was in a meeting.
Venugopal Rao, the chief executive officer of Dott Services, told The Observer yesterday that the company had not been served with the first order.
“They did not write to us. We just read in the papers and on social media that our company had been suspended and shall not work with government.
Rao said he had not heard about the new order, rescinding the old one.
According to its website, Dott Services is an engineering and construction firm and was registered in Uganda in 1994.
©Alleastafrica and The Obsever