Who is Enrica Pinetti, the woman behind Uganda’s Coffee Agreement -What we know so far

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Little is known about Ms Pinetti’s background. She is the Italian investor behind the Uganda Vinci Coffee Company (UVCC) which recently signed an agreement to set up a Coffee processing facility in Uganda, which has since turned controversial.

According to Bgreport, an independent information portal based in Italy, Ms Pinetti is originally from Oltrepò Pavese, an area of the Province of Pavia, in the north-west Italian region of Lombardy, and is the founder of FINASI srl.

Available information shows that FINASI, a “group of companies is active in many sectors, with branches in Russia and Sudan; supply of “turnkey” tanks for the storage of crude oil, in Basra, Iraq; hospital equipment in Africa, Central and South America; sale of furniture for hotels and embassies”.

Her presence in Uganda came in the limelight in 2014 when she accused Mr Frank Mugisha Kasaka, the then head of procurement at the Ministry of Health, of allegedly asking for a bribe from her. President Museveni, consequently, ordered the former Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry to sack Mr Mugisha.

In Africa, the Finasi Company, founded in 1969, lists its operations to be in Libya, Chad, Sudan, Egypt and Uganda. Its largest footprint is in the Middle East, operating in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia. It also operates in Russia, China, Mongolia, India, Switzerland and Italy. The conglomerate’s offices are in Milan, Italy, and Dubai, UAE.

The conglomerate states on its website finasi.com that it has built four hospital projects – Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Hospital (Mary – Turkmensitan) 130 beds, Sheikh Zayed Universiy Hospital (Khost – Afghanistan) 200 beds, Sharg Al Nile Hospital (Khartoum – Sudan) 200 beds and Famboni General Hospital (Moheli – Comoros Islands) 45 beds.

Besides the photographs and summarized information on the Health infrastructure projects undertaken by Finasi, the website does not offer adequate information on the progress of the projects or how they were executed. Even USH Lubowa is listed among the projects on the company’s website.

In Libya, Ms Pinetti, reportedly, had a reputation as the go-to person for business, especially contracts, with the military. According to the Bgreport -an online platform that offers services focusing on background checks on individuals and companies, she registered seven companies in the British Virgin Islands in April 2008 sometimes as a shareholder or chief executive officer.

Some of the companies she has formed include Finasi Engineering Arca Magna for Heritage Conservation, Medfin Engineering Ltd, Finmed Design Consultancy SA, Finasset General Contractor, Hasep Holding Ltd., Asico Consulting Group Ltd. They are all based at the Trinity Group in Dubai.

“Almost always the “Director” Pinetti leaves the post after one year. It is not in itself a crime,” Bgreport notes. Though, on September 18, 2015, the Bgreport, reported that a company linked to Ms Pinetti, Finaset di Pinetti, was accused of causing financial loss.

In 2019, Daily Monitor reported how it formally contacted the Italian embassy in Kampala about the allegations but the officials advised them to look for Ms Pinetti to answer the questions herself. Efforts to reach Pinetti through his company Finasi also proved futile.

On their website, Finasi boasts how they have over the years “innovated and developed specific know-how in the Healthcare field delivering state of the art facilities and providing solutions and added value services to its clients.” The information adds that today, Finasi is a global turnkey provider for Healthcare facilities.

Crucial timelines:

Museveni’s directives

August 22, 2014: President Museveni directs the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Asuman Lukwago, to dismiss the Head of Procurement Frank Mugisha Kasaka, for allegedly asking for a bribe from Ms Pinetti.

‘How can you keep a thief in the ministry? And how are you going to counsel a thief ? A thief is a thief. He should be removed.” “I requested them to come to Uganda to deal with kidney and heart problems so that we stop people from going to India for treatment,’’ he said.

October 20I4: Government approves the project to construct an international specialised hospital in Uganda on the 32-hectare piece of land located at Lubowa.

November 2014: The project framework agreement is signed to guide the negotiation of the final project agreements.

May 2015: The project works investment agreement (PWIA) is signed for the design, finance, construction and equipping of the 24O-bed hospital and staff training. It was agreed that construction would cost $249.9 million and the financing cost of $99.5 million.

December 2015: The project services agreement is signed for the operation and maintenance of the hospital for a period of eight years.

It was agreed that the Ministry of Health, among others, shall pay the hospital operations remunerations (management services remunerations) of $5 million per quarter during the first year and $6 million per quarter in the following years.

In addition, the ministry shall pay annual operations services remuneration to be agreed upon by the Ministry of Health and the hospital.

December 2018: The Direct Agreement was signed with the project’s Promissory Note funders.
Source: Committee of National Economy report.

June 23, 2016: The Ministry of Health should assist Ms Enrica Pinetti to build her hospital at Lubowa so that referrals abroad stop and we stop the haemmorhage of an estimated $150 million per year that goes into “medical tourism” to India. The heart, the kidneys, the brain and the cancers should all be treated here.”

February 10, 2022: An agreement offering a wide range of incentives is signed between Uganda’s Ministry of Finance and Uganda Vinci Coffee Company to set up an $80million dollar coffee processing plant at Namanve. Enrica Pinetti turns out to be behind the deal but signs on the agreement as a witness.

April 20, 2022: Legislators on the Committee of Finance during a site visit discover that no construction works are being conducted on Lubowa International Specialised Hospital on the Kampala-Entebbe Road and the contractor had abandoned the site. The acting commissioner in-charge of infrastructure at the Ministry of Health, Mr George Otim, said the contractor that had earlier been outsourced to handle the project abandoned it citing a number of challenges, including language barrier. The said contractor was, however, not disclosed.

He also revealed that the works at the site were at 23 percent, but only at foundation level. However, this comes at the time when the ministry of Health was persuading Parliament to okay the inclusion of another UGX319 billion in the 2022/2023 Financial Year Budget for the same project in addition to UGX348 billion.

Lubowa Hospital project received full support of President Museveni

President Museveni was quoted on various occasions arguing in favour of government backing the hospital project.
Lubowa hospital was one of the first directives Mr Museveni made shortly after this term started, in what he called “Strategic guidelines and directives for the term 2016-2021”.

The President wrote: “The ministry of Health should assist Ms Enrica Pinetti to build her hospital at Lubowa so that referrals abroad stop and we stop the hemorrhage of an estimated $150 million per year that goes into “medical tourism” to India. The heart, the kidneys, the brain and the cancers should all be treated here.”

However, background assessment would have revealed that FINASI/ROKO SPV LTD was wanting for a project of the magnitude proposed. There is no available information or testimonial evidence of the capacity of the company.

According to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, an investor who owns FINASI “a good ally of government” made proposal to H.E the President in February, 20l3 to build and manage specialised healthcare at Entebbe Grade A and the Uganda Cancer Institute.

More so, there is also no evidence whatsoever, that technical staff in the Ministries of Health, and Finance benchmarked on some accomplished hospital project works which have been previously undertaken by FINASI/ROKO SPV Company elsewhere as best practice requires for quality assurance to guarantee them as favorable candidates for the construction of the ISHU facility project.

Lack of clarity on the operation of the ISHU facility alongside other existing specialised facilities in the country
The Ministries of Health and Finance have not clarified on how the ISHU hospital will function alongside the existing specialised facilities like the Heart institute, cancer institute and the super specialised hospital at Mulago and whether there is a possibility of the said facilities being accredited internationally.

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