SGS bribed to secure vehicle inspection contract
Christophe Dubois, the country manager of SGS Uganda Limited, this week appeared before parliament’s Physical Infrastructure committee currently investigating SGS’ operations in the country.
Dubois appeared alongside Albert Stockell the SGS managing director and their legal counsel, Peter Kawuma from K&K Advocates.
In what MPs say was a case of conflict of interest, Dubois confirmed that Eng Denis Sabiiti, then working as chairman of the Contracts Management committee in the ministry of Works and Transport, was hired by SGS as a consultant from July 17, 2015 to May 17, 2016.
“Mr Sabiiti, as far as I know left civil service in 2015, I assume he made himself available for consultancy services and yes, he was hired as a consultant by SGS,” said Dubois.
Sabiiti, who was also the chairperson of the same committee currently investigating SGS, was forced to step aside from this position after the committee was directed to carry out inquiries. He is also barred from attending committee meetings since the ministry he worked for is involved.
Sabiiti witnessed the signing of the vehicle inspection contract between ministry of Works and SGS in March 2015, having been the chairman of the Contracts Management committee in the ministry.
He resigned his position in the ministry immediately after in a bid to join the 2016 parliamentary election contest.
Following questions from the Physical Infrastructure committee vice chairman, George Wilson Kumama Nsamba and Adjumani East MP Dulu Angel Mark about the relationship between Sabiiti and SGS, Dubois confirmed hiring the MP as a consultant.
“I’m not aware of the content of this consultancy agreement. As far as I know he was supposed to assist in his field of expertise about regulations in motor vehicle inspections services and other technical issues [from] 17th July 2015 until 17th May 2016”, said Dubois.
Dubois added that the consultancy agreement with MP Sabiiti ended because of his engagement in politics.
“Actually to make things very clear, we have a code of integrity that forbids us to employ any elective person, so that is why this consultancy agreement ended,” Dubois added.
Sabiiti’s dealings with SGS came to light this week following a confidential document furnished with the committee by the State minister for Transport, Aggrey Bagiire, who had notified the committee that some officials in his ministry had dealt with SGS personally.
In the confidential document, the minister revealed that Sabiiti was on the SGS payroll for ten months as a consultant being paid $3,000, an amount equivalent to over Shs 10 million per month.
However, when questioned about his dealings with SGS by the committee on Wednesday this week, Sabiiti denied saying that SGS has a policy that does not allow hiring of individuals.
When tasked by the committee to explain further about the matter, Sabiiti turned emotional and declined to comment further.
MP Kumama tasked Dubois to avail the agreement that SGS signed with MP Sabiiti but Dubois said that he would need to consult with his bosses in Geneva since he is not allowed to disclose such documents.
However, Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa notified Dubois about parliament’s Rule 197 that gives special powers of committees of parliament. The rule gives powers to committees to compel the production of documents among others.
“Compelling the witness to produce the documents can go beyond just telling you that ‘you go and bring the documents.’ [It can go as far as] us, holding you here until the documents are produced. So given those powers, if your lawyer has not advised you on the laws of the country; because if you are operating in this country, you should be able abide by the laws and regulations. [That is] important to us.
Legal counsel, we would not want you to leave your client behind. With that in your knowledge, do you still stand that you can’t give us the documents, the one which was earlier on mentioned and the contract you signed with Sabitti before we make a ruling on this matter?” queried Okupa.
With the threats, Dubois then said that he would avail a scanned copy of the agreement with Sabiiti since copies of it are at their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“About the consultancy agreement, it was been signed by the SGS-SA in Geneva and the consultant, so I don’t have any copies here. My point is that I do not want to produce [the agreement], I don’t have it. Like I said before, I have to call someone in Geneva so they can send me a scanned copy”, Dubois said.
The committee chairperson Lillian Nakatte directed that the copy be availed to the committee by Monday next week.
Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure Committee is investigating anomalies in the SGS operations. In March 2015, Societe Generale De Surveillance (SGS) signed a $12.5 million contract with the government to carry out routine inspection of vehicles with the aim of ensuring vehicles in poor mechanical condition are taken off the road.
The mandatory vehicle inspection exercise is carried out under “Safe Drive Uganda”, a road safety measure intended to ensure vehicle road-worthiness and reduce carnage on the roads in the country.
The contract requires that 10 per cent concessional fees is paid to the government while SGS earns up to 90 per cent of the inspection fees to enable it recoup its investment of up to $12.5 million.