Parliament during plenary yesterday March 9, 2022 unanimously ordered for a forensic audit of the government-owned Soroti Fruit Factory and suspension of its Chief Executive Officer.

The audit, to be completed within four weeks, will also cover the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), the supervisor of the US$11.4m factory that processes mainly mangoes and oranges into ready-to-drink juice.

The MPs call for action is premised on a report presented on 03 March 2022 by the Committee on Trade that lay bare the mismanagement and irregularities at the factory.

Deputy Speaker Anita Among revealed that several issues had been raised by the committee, most of which originate from poor governance of UDC, which as its supervisory body, lacks a fully constituted board and the Executive Director being chairperson of the board.

“A lot has been mentioned regarding the mismanagement of the fruit factory yet so much was invested in its establishment; there is impunity exercised by those managing the factory which this House must stop,” the Deputy Speaker said.

Hon. Jonathan Odur, said the top management has been making decisions much to the detriment of the success of the fruit factory and to the people of Teso who should be benefiting from the factory.

He added: “The people were mobilised to engage in fruit farming in this region with the intention of benefiting from the factory. However, the management took a decision to ring-fence the supply of this factory benefiting only a handful.”

Odur proposed that the members of the management team are brought to book and must answer for their misdeeds.

Hon. Nathan Nandala Mafabi (FDC, Budadiri County West) supplemented that the National Audit Act dictates an annual audit of an entity the Government owns to be done which means that these discrepancies should have been raised a while ago.

“It begs the question and calls for Parliament to find out why the Auditor General has not done anything,” he said.

Nandala Mafabi added that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives should be liable for failing to appoint board members; the Attorney General’s office for fraudulent procurements raised by the report including the double contract for the roads and the accounting officer and members of the contract and procurement committees penalised.

The UDC, Hon. Milton Muwuma (NRM, Kigulu County South) said, needed a special audit because it has caused massive financial losses to the country as witnessed in previous reports of mismanagement of business entities that it supervises.

“The same UDC fleeced locals under the Busoga arrangement for sugar factories by awarding contracts to just a few people; now, we see UDC awarding its own shareholder, Teso Farmers’ Cooperative Union (TEFCU), to supply product and in the end cutting out many fruit farmers.

UDC should be suspended from supervising the fruit factory and fully investigated,” he added.

Tororo District Woman MP, Sarah Opendi, said that the trade minister has failed to supervise the UDC and in particular, the fruit factory which is a first major business.

Opendi also noted that TEFCU, with 20 per cent shareholding in the factory, should be investigated and its membership audited for being the only other shareholder benefiting at the expense of many fruit farmers, who are paid meager prices.

The Government, through UDC owns 80 per cent of the factory.

Kungu Al-Mahadi Adam is an experienced Ugandan multimedia Journalist with a background of fact checking and thorough research. He is very passionate about current African affairs particularly Horn of Africa. He...

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