I Apologise To Engineer Abraham Byandala, Minister of Works and Transport in Uganda; I realise that I have been stupid and hereby regret my ways.
I have been waiting for Eng. Byandala to issue a clarification about the statements so far attributed to him in the Eutaw Construction case of the Katosi-Nyenga road in Mukono because they make him appear to be of diminished intellect, whereas judging from his position in society and past responsibilities, he is most certainly not.
In fact, I want to now apologise to Eng. Byandala because I am clearly the one who is stupid, as far as this issue is concerned.
Stupid because my understanding of things is so much at variance with the reasoning put forward by Eng. Byandala and the facts of the case as they have been presented by the media thus far; and since it looks as if arguing to the contrary will be more frustrating than I can bear, I concede and hereby hang up my intellectual gloves.
Stupid, I have checked, means, “lacking intelligence or common sense” and “dazed and unable to think clearly”.
I am, I re-iterate, stupid; because I meet both definitions in regard to the matter of Eng. Byandala and Eutaw Construction of Uganda: you see, I have failed to understand the logic behind his actions in the Eutaw matter, and find that his explanation as presented to his Parliamentary colleagues and the media, only dazed my befuddled mind and made me unable to think clearly.
Finding the initial story headlines alone too depressing to accept first time round, I went into a little denial and refused to read the stories in detail but eventually succumbed and came across those sentences of explanation quoted thus:
“The company directors met the President and Ssekandi in New York when he had gone to represent Uganda at the United Nations. Besides, the company had shown willingness to use its money and get paid later. So, I said, sign the contract, but continue with due diligence.”
These words were attributed to Eng. Byandala, honourable member of parliament.
Due diligence, according to most explanations, involves investigations conducted prior to signing a contract or taking any particular act. In it’s most simplified format, due diligence is “first checking”.
This is where my confusion began, because – again perhaps due to my mind being so simple – I would expect that an engineer would know this and follow logic. I was first officially introduced to ‘Logic’ while studying mathematics; and I am of the belief, maybe mistaken, that mathematics is a base, essential subject for people who study Engineering.
Meanwhile, if my logic is faulty in determining myself to be stupid where Mr. Byandala’s statement makes sense, please blame it on my not having studied mathematics or even engineering the way he did.
One definition of Due Diligence even states that, “the theory behind due diligence holds that performing this type of investigation contributes significantly to informed decision making by enhancing the amount and quality of information available…”
Before releasing that money or signing the contract, for instance, someone could have googled Eutaw, even as far back as 2010.
When one does Google Eutaw the first four entries are to do with anything else before you get to Eutaw Construction. The top most entry is the Wikipedia one that states: “Eutaw (/ˈjuːtɔː/ yew-taw) is a city in Greene County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 2,934…”
This is smaller, by population, than most villages in Uganda, but that’s not the point. The construction company is the fifth entry –www.eutawconstruction.com.
Nothing on their website points at the company ever having done work outside of the United States or even being interested in doing so.
Even the most basic first steps of due diligence would have taken the phone numbers off the site – as the media eventually did – to call and confirm that, indeed, Eutaw was in Uganda.
Google the names of the so-called Eutaw protagonists and you won’t find much about them on the internet either – which could raise suspicions over people managing million dollar contracts. One of them, Project Coordinator Steve Olvey, has a LinkedIn entry that outlines his duties and responsibilities on the project (titled ‘Mikono Project’ spelt like those people who make fake Chinese products) since October 2013.
Among his responsibilities was/is “marketing the road project to local media.”
Before that, his profile says, he was Production Manager with one Avionics Interface for a year and one month, “…responsible for parts ordering and workflow management of cable assembly for the airline industry; created spreadsheets for invoice specific parts ordering and tracking…” And before that, he was ‘Operations Manager’ at Big Sky Tool Inc and Inventory Manager for The Home Depot in the US.
Due diligence aside, though, you should read the interview Mr. Byandala purportedly did with The Observer.
When, he says, suspicions arose about Eutaw, he consulted both the UNRA lawyer and the Attorney General of government “verbally”.
“I told him, ‘I have a small problem in my office…'” Just Ushs165 billion!
And, he went on, “‘Supposing we sign, will it be easy to terminate the contract?’ He said, ‘Yes, except, you can only do that in court and it may take long.’ Then I said: ‘What if we put a clause that in case we find that you are not genuine we automatically cancel the contract…?’ And he said: ‘That is enough.'”
Again, because I am so stupid I have never in my limited interaction with commerce dealt with any supplier, carpenter, plumber or even wheelbarrow pusher in such an intelligent manner.
I will continue typing out this apology while kneeling.
You see, Mr. Byandala is a bastion in the fight against corruption in Uganda. I have realized that he is a hero and should get a medal rather than suffer the amount of angry abuse I initially levelled at him for allowing our scarce resources to go to waste rather than into health and education.
(In any case, if the money had gone into an education system producing Engineers whose understanding of due diligence is so wanting…)
It was in this same interview that Mr. Byandala name dropped his cabinet colleagues and a few other people as being involved or behind Eutaw Uganda, and revealed that “all” insurance bonds for construction contracts are fake.
On top of that, he heroically named one Denis Ayo as being behind the fake contracts, “But you know Uganda, because of (his) connections, everything disappeared.”.
Interestingly, Mr. Byandala was guest of honour at an event a few months ago when Uganda joined CoST (the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative), which is supposed to increase transparency in the construction sector; so he doubtlessly is a champion of said transparency.
I apologise to Mr. Byandala because for many years – even going back to the time he was in charge of roads or engineering or planning in Kampala under the old, ramshackled Kampala City Council, I have stupidly been campaigning for Uganda.
Like an idiot, I always say we have good people and good things going on in this country. I should have consulted him, a national leader and studied professional, for such all-enveloping blanket statements that discourage investment and trade with Uganda.
This, mind you, in spite of his comments made earlier in a ‘European Times’ interview of October 2012 where he said, “I would like international investors and partners to know that Uganda is now a great and safe place to do business, and that the government and private sector have a very productive working relationship here.”
In my foolishness, I even considered that he should resign from his position as Cabinet Minister since his wise and eminent statements alone could impact negatively on government funding!
I am so dense that I falsely reasoned that if he knew about said Denis Ayo and the fake insurance bonds as he stated in great detail to The Observer, he should NOT have told UNRA to sign before due diligence had been done on Eutaw.
Elsewhere, among the Byandala quotes are gems like: “In Cabinet, we discuss serious issues affecting the nation, not stupid things like this (Eutaw allegation)!”
There’s that word again: stupid. Like me – and most Ugandans who expected much, much better from Engineer Abraham James Byandala; and most of all, those who will be voting for him again come 2016.