40Bn Abattoir Investor To Close Over Umeme Bills
By John V Sserwaniko
Sherif Kallin, the MD and proprietor of the Uganda-Egyptian project for Food Security (EUFS) abattoir project in Bombo, has secured an appointment to meet the President and bid him farewell.
He says he is frustrated by corruption, extortion and inefficiency of the Ugandan bureaucracy and wants to relocate his business to Tanzania whose government agents have already approached him.
He says, whereas he responded to the President’s pleas and came to Uganda determined to create 300 jobs, export and bring in foreign exchange, he has been frustrated majorly by three things. These include prohibitively very high electricity bills UMEME makes him pay every month even before he begins production of the actual beef for export to the Egyptian market.
He says he has a demand of 12,000 cattle per month to slaughter and supply to ready market in Egypt whose Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs have already placed monthly orders requiring him to export 4000 tons of beef per month.
He says every month UMEME makes him pay $5,000 (over Shs10m) for power he monthly consumes maintaining cold room facilities which is a hygiene standards requirement before he even starts commercial production and processing of beef for the Egyptian market.
What hurts him most is the fact that UMEME has continued to charge him so much per month for the last one year even when the President expressly ordered Finance Minister Matia Kasaijja to work with Energy Ministry to ensure he gets free power or at a concessional rate of 5 dollar cents per unit.
“The President sat there, Matia Kasaijja was next to him and I was the 3rd person in the room. Everything was concluded but nothing has materialized one year later. The Egyptian Ambassador went and met Energy Minister Irene Muloni and all we see is that these Ugandan officials are big talkers but they are zero when it comes to actual working,” Kallin roared during a meeting with Agricultural Ministry/Livestock sector officials who were led by line Minister Joy Kabatsi.
Kabatsi came with scribes, NAADS ED Samuel Mugasi and other MAAIF officials to acquaint themselves with the progress being made at the much hyped project site the President commissioned over one year ago in Bombo. This was on Monday afternoon inside the EUFS Boardroom.
We spoke to Muloni, who had just emerged from a meeting of the President’s Economic Council (PEC) at Entebbe State House, and she explained why her ministry had taken forever to arrange for the investor to pay his power bills under a concessional rate as directed by the President. She said the President knows everything and that progress was being made.
“The most important thing we need is the money to subsidize power for a category of consumers as directed by the President. That investor is among those but Matia Kasaija must get for us the money to implement that directive and the President knows why that money hasn’t yet been found,” she said adding that even when they are still waiting for the Bujagali dam incentives negotiations to be concluded, there was already an off peak arrangement under which Mr. Kallin and other big name industrialists are already benefiting by paying a much lower tariff because of the President’s intervention.
She urged him to be patient a bit more as a lasting solution was being found in the coming months. Kallin, who kept saying they are here to help Uganda and not themselves, said every $100m he makes, he personally will be taking only 5% and the rest remains in Uganda’s economy through paying the 300 workers he has and purchase of raw materials.
“I don’t understand why you don’t see this as government of Uganda; there is a vacuum you can take advantage of to use Egypt to penetrate beef markets in the Middle East. The major beef exporters to Egypt have been India and Brazil but they are now under restriction. This is an opportunity for Uganda and Egypt is the gateway to the rest of the Middle East. Your president is so passionate about this but you are letting him down,” ranted Kallin who occasionally violently banged tables in a rare display of total disrespect to the GoU officials inside his board room.
He also occasionally barked at them to show disgust for the ineptness of the Ugandan bureaucracy. The second frustration he said relates to the Lands Ministry whose officials he said had delayed issuing him the land title for the 25 acres of land President Museveni ordered the Luwero district local government to give him for expansion.
“I have been speaking to Hajji Nadduli until I gave up,” he said in reference to Minister without portfolio who the President tasked to oversee the title processing. The other officer Museveni tasked to help the investor is the MD National Enterprise Corporation (NEC) Gen James Mugira who Kallin said hasn’t helped him enough either.
To illustrate Mugira’s ineptness, Kallin gave the example of rampant thefts of his factory property by some of the 300 Ugandans he employs from the surrounding villages. “I employ 300 people from here but they are thieves. I pay them well but at night they sneak in and steal my things. Gen Mugira gave me three military police personnel but they haven’t made this place secure. They are lazy and are always putting on civilian cloths and I have been complaining about this. How can they do security work when they are dressed like civilians? I told them but they refused to change. All they do is be inside there the whole day. Then they keep asking for food and drinks only. Gen Mugira got me talk to the head military police who promised to act but up to now these military personnel haven’t been changed and my things continue to be stolen,” furiously said Kallin reminding the Kabatsi delegation:
“I’m a businessman and not a charity worker; what do you expect me to do?” He said the area police hadn’t helped him either.
“All they do is come here asking we want to look at your land title. There is someone called CIID ha that man is very difficult. The other day I chased them away from my premises.” Kallin said there was a problem of corruption among Ugandan bureaucrats which is the major cause of his frustrations.
“Let me tell you there is corruption even in Egypt but those people put the country first and their eating is secondary but here its worse. People are very greedy and even reckless. I have never seen this,” he said before turning his anger on the MAAIF technocrats for being unnecessarily very bureaucratic.
“There was supposed to be the MoU which we on the Egyptian side signed long time ago but in your Ministry it has taken more than a year. We really don’t know why this is so. That MoU is very important because it stipulates what each party is expected to do and we can’t start work without it. It’s part of the reason we haven’t started exporting to Egypt,” he said.
In a subsequent interview with a big Television crew from Egypt that came specifically to interview the President about his government’s apparent unseriousness towards the project, Kabatsi said she wasn’t aware of this MoU-related frustration but was going to ensure the MoU is expeditiously signed for the project to take off as per the President’s wish.
Kallin assured the delegation: “Let me tell you I’m giving you three months to work out all these things and to also supply me cattle that I require to satisfy the orders for beef supply which have been placed by the Defense and Internal Affairs Ministries of Egypt.”
He said his Board of Directors back home in Egypt had sat and voted to relocate to Tanzania should Museveni continue failing to put his house in order. “I have a meeting with your President this very week and I’m going to tell him all these things that ‘I know you liked this project but too bad we are businessmen. We can’t lose any more time and money,” Kallin said adding that he couldn’t believe he has so far spent over $350,000 before he can even produce 1kg of beef for exportation to Egypt.
“I’m a businessman and I can’t lose so much and continue staying here trying to help people who don’t understand how this is such a golden opportunity for their country.” He said he had engaged everybody including Prime Minister Rugunda and Gen Salim Saleh but still things haven’t changed yet time isn’t on his side.
But government sources maintained the investor wasn’t without blemish. “It’s true he came and met Ndugu before but that investor isn’t without blemish. He wants to exploit our beef farmers by paying very low prices per kg and when this is brought to his attention, he explodes saying he is being price discriminated because of his color.
That is blackmail which even the President won’t accept. He keeps saying he is a businessman but even Ugandan farmers are in business. When they met him and bargained for a fair price, he exploded in their face and walked out.
He selfishly wants to pay Shs4000 per kg claiming that Ugandan cows have a lot of bones and little flesh but he won’t tell you where he puts the bones, the skin and all those other things. So he must put his house in order first before accusing government officials of frustrating and seeking bribes from him,” said an OPM official close to Premier Ruhakana Rugunda.