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Ugandan firms in fight for multi-billion cargo-handling deal in S.Sudan

Trucks at the border

Trucks at the border

Two Ugandan sub-contractors in logistical support are embroiled in a bitter dispute over cargo-handling services in neighbouring South Sudan and DR Congo.

French-based K-Polygone Multinational, through its local agent Lincoln Logistics Ltd, is accusing Invesco Uganda Ltd, sub-contracted by Transcom, of misleading traders about their relations with DR Congo and South Sudan authorities.

Edgar David Musoke Nsubuga, Lincoln Logistics general manager, blames Invesco for misleading Julius Nkwasire Mponooka, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) assistant commissioner Intelligence, into informing traders that the latter attained cargo clearance-related dealings with the governments of DR Congo and South Sudan.

During the January 25 meeting between URA Commissioner General John Musinguzi and his South Sudan Revenue Authority (SSRA) counterpart Africano Mande Gedima at Nakawa, it was announced that SSRA had entered into a partnership with Invesco to provide an electronic cargo tracking system for goods from point of origin to destination.

K-Polygone had been doing that work for more than a decade until 2021 when it was temporarily suspended by Kuol Athien Mawien, South Sudan’s Trade minister, on grounds that its subcontractors were being used to interrupt the cargo transiting to South Sudan.

In that January 25 meeting, Invesco was praised for boosting URA operations while amplifying the curbing of smuggling and goods’ dumping practices.

“Collections from customs have been low, pushing us to make tough decisions. Invesco’s services will help us improve collections,” Gedima reportedly said.

However, Nsubuga maintains this was a deliberate ploy to undermine K-Polygone because Mponooka’s utterances indicated that K-Polygone is still suspended from doing cargo tracking and importation-clearing work for the government of South Sudan. In fact, he blames Invesco, the K-Polygone subcontractor at the time, for the temporary suspension.

“Invesco concentrated on militarising compliance operations, which caused long queues and endless heavy truck traffic jams as business and diplomatic cargo got held up and thereby frustrating individual actors and entities that were meant to be served under the arrangement during the contracting period. Invesco used militarised operations to cover up for its staffing and professionalism-related inadequacies,” Nsubuga says.

“Gratefully, having established where the problem was emanating from, Mawien and undersecretary Mary Aketch Milla have since reinstated the contractual relationship with K-Polygone. Following up on the earlier one, a South Sudan Trade ministry letter of March 27, 2023, makes it clear that K-Polygone is the sole provider of imports and cargo clearance-related services for the government of South Sudan relating to importation and exportation at all its ports. So, the short-lived suspension was lifted and brought to an end. Invesco is deliberately misleading URA and Mponooka regarding the true position of the situation. Mponooka’s utterances were deliberately meant to tarnish our image while making Invesco seem greater than it actually is."

In the subsequent letter, Milla asks the K-Polygone to closely work with SSRA and its commissioner general to carry out its compliance-related work alongside Crawford Capital Ltd, which is the other mandated entity. The same South Sudan ministerial directive requires K-Polygone to effect the installation of scanners at the Nimule border point and the Electronic Cargo Tracking Notes (ECTN).

Nsubuga adds that Invesco’s referred contract with SSRA to handle imports and exports or even transit goods doesn’t exist.

"K-Polygone challenges Mponooka and Invesco to publicize such a contract if it actually exists. K-Polygone demands sanction against the actors involved for deliberately misleading both URA and the public," reads part of Nsubuga’s statement.

"Even in DR Congo, Invesco has no direct contractual relationship with the government in Kinshasa to do any imports or cargo-clearing errands there. They are mere third-party actors having been sub-contracted by Transcom, which was directly hired by the DR Congo government along with K-Polygone."

Nsubuga further adds that K-Polygone is already doing large cargo and import clearance jobs on behalf of governments in countries like Benin, Gambia, DR Congo, South Africa, Congo, Guinea Bissau, CAR, Zambia, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda (through MS Lincoln Logistics Ltd) and Tanzania. He asserts that they are equally present and doing work in France, Switzerland, India, Canada, North America and Hong Kong.

"In all these places, they have performed their contractual obligations in a manner that exceeded the expectations of their clients, who are chiefly governments."

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