By Pia A. Gaarder
Corruption suspicions directed at players within the Bujagali have followed the project since the very beginning. The World Bank already 18 months ago initiated its own investigation of Bujagali, conducted by the newly established "Anti-Fraud & Corruption Unit".
The rumours had then already circulated for some time that the US constructor company AES had been extremely careless with regard to granting money gifts in order to get the project started. An employee of AES Nile Power Uganda has accused a former director in the company of having authorized the use of 400.000 US dollars for tipping off local politicians.
A lot of Corruption
Uganda is well known for corruption. According to the annual corruption index prepared by the organisation International Transparency, Uganda last year held the position as third most corrupt country in the World. This year five countries were found to be worse than Uganda on corruption.
The bribe paid by Veidekke's UK registered subsidiary Nor-Icil Ltd. In 1999, has become so important because of the strong evidences in the matter. The exposure may well become a last straw. That is; a major corruption scandal concerning Bujagali may now be in the offing.
Already in an early stage, several European development banks rejected getting involved in the project due to strong suspicions of corruption. The German Development Bank (DEG) has named corruption as one of three reasons it would not support the Bujagali power plant.
According to the Ugandan news paper "The Monitor" corruption suspicions also stopped the English and French development banks - ACGD and Proparc - from entering the project.
Ugandan press have for quite a while covered the corruption suspicions in connection with the process leading to the Parliament decision to build the controversial power plant.
Former Ugandan Minister of Energy, Richard Kaijuka, have been accused of receiving a 10.000 US dollar bribe from AES. However, it is only recently that one has figured out the connection between this bribe and Veidekke's former subsidiary, Nor-Icil.
The Ugandan parliamentarian Ken Lukyamuzi was the first to direct a written notice to The World Bank about the corruption surrounding the Bujagali project. He stated to the Kenyan online news paper "The East African on the Web" that there were three levels of corruption linked with Bujagali; involving ministers, constructor administrators and lower bureaucrats.
Together with several other Ugandan parliamentarians, Lukyamuzi now ask for a thoroughfare into the use of the 150 million US dollars already spent on the project. The construction of the Bujagali plant has not yet started. It is calculated to cost 580 million US dollars, and is thus one of the largest single investments ever made in East- and Central Africa.
Norwatch Newsletter 7-8/02