MPs puzzled by UMEME ownership

Sam Zimbe - General Manager of Umeme
Sam Zimbe - General Manager of Umeme

The ownership of Umeme, the electricity distribution company is still unclear with officials saying the company is indirectly owned by the UK government, while Members of Parliament think some Ugandans are behind the venture.

In 2001, when government advertised for the bidding, 5 pre-qualified bidders were listed and they included CDC Capital Partners from UK and Eskom Enterprises from South Africa. These two companies later formed a consortium and finally took the bid. Other companies included Union Fenosa International from Spain, Cinergy Global Power from USA and Electricity Supply Board International from Ireland.

In what they called marriage of convenience, the MPs on Wednesday said that Eskom in 2008 pulled out of the venture under unclear circumstances. But Charles Chapman, the Umeme managing director told MPs that Eskom failed to meet its obligation to invest 50 percent of the venture worth US$20 million.

Documents before the committee showed that Eskom sold out its stake in the venture amounting to US$1.12 million to Gobeleq Holdings. This money was wired to the Eskom account free of any deduction upon the completion of the sale on November 28th 2008. 1.1 million USD was in respect of the Eskom loan while 22, 000 USD was for the shares.

Sam Zimbe, the General Manager Umeme also told the committee that later in 2009, Globeleq transferred its shares to the Actis Infrastructure Fund, which was also owned by Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC). Actis is owned indirectly by the government of England and other partners who were not mentioned.

The Energy Adhoc Committee chairperson, Oboth Oboth demanded to know what exactly Actis infrastructure does but Chapman was not in a position to tell. He only mentioned that there are several partners.

The ad hoc committee still wants to know the true owners of Umeme. The MPs did not want to disclose information of the owners for fear of jeopardizing the investigations.