Sunday, June 1, 2014

No reclaim of UDA shares, says CEO

The Group Chairman of the Simon Group Ltd holding the majority shares of the Dar es Salaam City Transport Company known by its Kiswahili acronym ‘UDA’ or Usafiri Dar es Salaam, Robert Kisena has refuted claims that his company bought the shares at a throw away price. Such claims were raised by Members of Parliament early this week when contributing the budget estimates for the Ministry of Transport in the on-going national budget debate sessions for 2014/15 fiscal year. The MPs alleged that, the investors had bought the company’s shares at a cheapest price rates which were sold at Sh. 145/- each instead of Sh. 1,600/- as slated by the government according to KPMG a consulting accounting firm contracted to evaluate the shares.  Kisena clarified the issue last week in a telephone interview when contacted with a view to get the authenticity of the controversy surrounding the transaction and confirmed that his firm bought the shares at Sh. 1,620/- each. He added that since his company bought the shares in 2009 it had acquired 76.7 per cent stake with 20 buses, but now four years down the lane they are operating with over 500 fleet of buses.  He further noted that, since then they had entered an agreement with the government and both sides settled down their operation in a peaceful manner. “We do not have a problem with the government, those raising claims about the shares are mere speculation which should not be entertained at all” he said adding that if there is any problem on the transaction they could raise such claims since then, he queried. However, he said that, does it sound in mind to look for the authenticity by now and yet when the UDA shares were acquired by his company it had only 20 fleet of buses operating in the city, and now are boasting of having over 500 buses operating in the city. On Monday last week, MPs demanded that the government has a reason to reclaim its shares in UDA that it had sold to Simon Group Company and sell them at higher prices to recoup the resultant loss and end the controversy surrounding the transaction. 

CEO of the Simon Group Ltd, Mr. Robert Kisena

Nzega legislator, Dr Hamis Kigwangala (CCM) said there has been a lot of hearsay regarding the possession of UDA shares but the government is yet to provide adequate answers. However, he suggested that UDA management should buy back the shares at a proposed market price. For his part, Kasulu legislator, Moses Machali (NCCR - Mageuzi) blamed officials who allowed the shares of the transport company to be sold at a throw-away price. “If the Dar es Salaam City Council sold its shares to the investors who is to blame? We have to allow them to operate and serve people in the area,” he said. Murtaza Mangungu, Kilwa North legislator (CCM) said the transaction of UDA shares is still marred by complications and suggested that, the government should compensate the investors and reclaim the shares then start a new procedure to sell them to the public. Freeman Mbowe, Hai Legislator (Chadema) said there have been contradicting statements from government officials regarding the sale of UDA shares. “This is a shame to the government. Attempting to clarify the matter, minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs) William Lukuvi said the issue of UDA has been forwarded to the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) for further investigation. He said PCCB has been tasked to confirm the authenticity of the transaction of the shares between government officials and the investors. In May 2012, the then chairman of Board of Directors of Uda, Mr Iddi Simba, was charged with eight counts, including forgery, and abuse of office that caused over Sh2.4 billion loss to the transport company. Mr Simba, a former Cabinet minister, was charged along with two Uda senior officials.

Deputy Finance minister Adam Malima told Parliament last week that Uda was still jointly owned by DCC and the government through TR. He stated the government’s position when responding to a question by Ms Halima Mdee (Kawe-Chadema), who wanted to know who the owners of Uda were and their stakes in the company. In December 2013, the Local Authorities Accounts (LAAC) committee of the National Assembly deplored the sale of shares of the Dar es Salaam Transport Company to Simon Group, a city trading firm. Committee chairman John Lwanji (Manyoni West-CCM) said when tabling the committee’s annual implementation report for 2013 and note4d that, the sale was a grave mistake as it did not consider national interests at all. The committee received a joint report on the implementation of the sale and entire operations of UDA Company for scrutiny, upon which the committee discovered that the government cannot do anything to save the company as it was sold via laid down rules of  tendering procedures. “What is painful over the sale is that it was done as in accordance with the law setting up the company, and that the Board of Directors was fully involved,” he said and added that, the allotted shares were sold at a throw away price if the property had no owner.

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