KITGUM. The State minister for environment has warned Kitgum municipal leaders to get ready for grilling over the misuse of Shs23.8b meant to build Kitgum Central Market.
Ms Beatrice Anywar said: “We don’t want to get any shortage out of this market. So it [the mess] must be exposed. The monitoring unit from the President’s Office is already coming,” Ms Anywar said.
The minister said the State House Anti-Corruption Unit is to focus on some people, who she said had diverted part of the project money to build personal houses.
The minister, who toured the market project last week, said: “Leaders who are managing this facility should not mess it up. We want an audit on how this market was constructed because there are some people who have built [personal houses] out of this project,” she said.
The Shs23.8b market is jointly funded by African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Government of Uganda under the second phase of the Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Project (MATIP-2).
Ms Anywar was accompanied by Chua County East MP Margaret Lamwaka Odwar, Kitgum RDC William Komakech, LC5 chairman Christopher Arwai Obol, and his deputy Joyce Atim.
But the minister did not say how much was swindled neither did she name the leaders that reportedly misused and diverted part of the project money to personal use. However, Mr Richard Ojara Okwera, the Kitgum municipality mayor, dismissed the claims as misguided.
He said the MATIP-2 funds are not handled by the local leaders whose roles were restricted to monitoring and raising alarms during the site meetings. Mr Ojara said the central government awards the contracts, handles procurements and payments.
While launching the Anti-Corruption Unit in December 2018, President Museveni said it was formed to coordinate anti-corruption activities with law enforcement agencies and serve as his eyes and ears in the war against corruption.
The Chinese State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd that commenced work on the project in June 2019 was expected to complete the market in 24 months.
But the completion date was extended twice due to the lockdown forced by the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020. A senior project staff member died of the disease while three workers contracted it, forcing the closure of the site for more than a month.
Again, the Ministry of Local Government extended the project completion date to end of July 2022, once it became clear the Chinese firm would not complete the work by the end of January.
But minister Anywar and other top district leaders are optimistic that the market will now be completed by end of this month, which the municipality mayor, Mr Richard Ojara Okwera, doubts.
Besides lock-up shops and stalls, the modern market will also boast of amenities like banking institutions, cool storage facilities, baby and beauty care centres, vehicle parking spaces, and other open spaces.