Kato Mivule | August 4, 2009
Uganda’s Broadband future and hopes for Cheap High Speed Internet hand on a shoe string after the Ugandan Government could not account for funds used in the ‘Phase One’ for the High Speed Fiber Optic Cable Infrastructure.
Uganda’s Legislative Body has refused to release funds for the ‘Phase Two’ of the project citing graft and lack of accountability.
The worst fears is that even when the High Speed Fiber Optic Infrastructure is fully complete, Ugandans might never get cheap High Speed Internet as Government Officials will seek to setup fake middlemen companies that will even make it harder for poor folks to access Broadband Internet.
As usual when Uganda takes three steps forward, they regress and take another four steps back courtesy of Uganda’s Government officials who seem to have no remorse and sense of decency…
Inflated costs set to delay faster Internet
Daily Monitor | News | August 4, 2009 | Yasiin Mugerwa
Ugandans may have to wait longer for the broadband revolution after Parliamentarians refused to approve Shs122 billion for the second phase of a countrywide Information and Communication Technology (ICT) backbone infrastructure project, citing corruption and inflation of costs in the first phase of the project.
Legislators on the ICT Committee of Parliament last week questioned the $126 million (about Shs252 billion) cost for the national ICT project, arguing that Rwanda is carrying out a similar project across 2,300km for only $38 million (about Shs76 billion).
“We want the Auditor General to look at the cost of this project. Otherwise, Uganda cannot spend more than Shs252 billion yet our neighbours in Rwanda and Kenya are spending less amounts on a similar project,” Mr Ishaa Otto (UPC, Oyam South), an ICT committee member, told Daily Monitor on Friday.
The development comes barely a month before Uganda upgrades its Internet communication speeds to levels enjoyed in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and now Kenya through undersea cables providing broadband technology.
Experts expect broadband, which refers to high data rate Internet access, to reduce the cost of Internet bandwidth by up to 70 per cent. The legislators have also summoned ICT Minister Aggrey Awori to provide a detailed account of how the Shs60b budgeted for Phase I of the project was spent.
The 2,130 kilometre project aims to speed up e-governance by providing a basic communication link to rural communities and improving service delivery in key areas such as health, education and agriculture.
In an interview on Saturday, Mr Awori said, “We didn’t inflate any costs. The comparison with Rwanda doesn’t arise because for us we are dealing with excavations and laying the cable at the same time. This makes the costs higher than that of Rwanda and we are different.”
According to project details obtained by Daily Monitor, Phase I was budgeted at $30 million (about Shs60b), Phase II at $61m (about Shs122b) and Phase III at $15m (about Shs30b) with an additional $20m (about Shs40b) budgeted as government counterpart funding.
After spending Shs60b for Phase I in the 2007/2008 financial year, the government has requested Parliament to approve an additional Shs122b to start Phase II. But MPs led by Chairperson Mr Nathan Igeme Nabeta have blocked more funding to the ICT project until the ICT ministry accounts for the Shs60b spent under Phase I.
The first phase of the project covered Kampala, Entebbe, Bombo and Jinja. Although it was completed last year, MPs who carried out a field visit on Wednesday found that only the Kampala site is operational.
Mr Otto reported that when the committee visited the project sites in Kampala, Mukono, Jinja, and Bombo last Wednesday, it saw nothing but corruption at its best. “After spending Shs60b budgeted for Phase I, there is nothing to show on the ground. The new fibre cable linking Kampala to Mukono and Jinja was cut off, the inter-connection centres were non-operational with no power and the generators were missing,” said Mr Otto.
The Director of Communications and Broadcasting Infrastructure in the ICT Ministry, Eng. Godfrey Kibuuka, who represented the ministry during the tour, reportedly failed to explain why the Mukono, Jinja and Bombo sites were not working. Eng. Kibuuka could not also explain the alleged inflated costs of the project.
Mr Awori told Daily Monitor, “We got problems with connections because our cable was cut at Namanve but we are handling this matter.”
Mr Nabeta said, “We appreciate the need for this ICT backbone, but we cannot approve more money without explaining what happened with the $30m for phase I. We want this project to succeed and we want the faults to be corrected.” But Mr Awori retorted: “It is not true that there is no value for money because 90 per cent of the e-government facility is functioning. It is only the commercial part which is not working because we are yet to connect to the sub-marine.”