Why EAC forensic lab’s been termed ‘null and void’

Saturday October 19 2019

Uganda Police Force

The Uganda Police Force is part of a tripartite deal involving the construction of the Regional Forensic Referral Centre that parliament has dismissed. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

JONATHAN KAMOGA
By JONATHAN KAMOGA
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The construction of the East African Community’s Regional Forensic Referral Centre (RFRC) in Kampala is in doubt after the Ugandan parliament declared the involvement of the police, the land commission and a private company unconstitutional.

A report tabled in parliament this past week by the parliamentary committee on Defence and Internal Affairs notes that the Uganda Police Force (UPF), Uganda Land Commission (ULC) and Tip Top Investments Ltd do not have the legal capacity to enter into a tripartite agreement on behalf of the government.

“In accordance to the Constitution of Uganda, there is no any other person or entity of government that has legal capacity to enter any agreement or contract to which the government is a party without the legal advice from the Attorney General,” notes the report.

“The interactions held by the committee between UPF and ULC do not indicate whatsoever that the Attorney General was ever involved in this transaction.”

The parliamentary committee made the observation after routine scrutiny of the agreement before it takes effect.

In 2012 when the EAC Council of Ministers settled on Uganda to host the forensic centre, the police, land commission and Tip Top Investments entered into an agreement to design, construct and equip the centre.

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Now the committee says that the agreement is null and void and therefore cannot be sanctioned by the House, putting the project in jeopardy.

RFRC is expected to be the bloc’s centre of excellence in forensic service delivery, and will host both the East African Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation and the African Police Co-operation Organisation.

The report also found irregularities in the process used to procure the contractor and acquisition of land.

According to the committee, the project can only go ahead after certain elements are corrected including the actual cost of the project.

Currently, it is valued at an estimated $29 million, including construction, equipping and training.

The report further recommends that the Minister of Internal Affairs forms a project management team through the relevant entity (this being the UPF), and task it to review the contract and ensure that the project scope including equipment is itemised and costed in order to establish its overall cost including designing, building and equipping the facility, and the construction of 7,000 units of staff accommodation.

The decision to build a forensic centre arose out of the need to strengthen the investigative capacity of law enforcement agencies in the region, facilitate other law and order sectors, combat the rising sophistication in crime especially terrorism and cybercrime and boost investigation of other emerging crimes.

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