French firm behind construction of Kigali golf course dragged to court

A Kigali based businessman is moving to sue a French firm, Gregori International, which is currently involved in the construction of the Kigali Golf Course.

Sources told The New Times that Franco Nkumba, is opening charges against the firm over a payment dispute following a disagreement related to business services rendered to the firm as their local representative.

The firm won the initial tender on December 31, 2018, to ‘design and build a new nine-hole golf course and upgrade the existing nine-hole course’.

However, months after the contract was issued, an addendum was made to the tender to build an 18-hole golf course as opposed to the 9-hole course previously planned.

After winning the bigger tender, the French firm attempted to sideline their local representative as a way of avoiding to part with a share of their revenue.

The New Times understands that the two parties entered into a contract in December 2018, with Nkumba being the construction company’s representative in Rwanda.

The terms of the contract included competing for the bid and if successful, Nkumba would conduct the negotiations and continue as the liaison between the construction company and Kigali Golf Club.

All went well until June 2019, when the French firm was awarded the bigger 18-hole contract.

What was a rosy relationship turned into a dispute stemming from the fact that Gregori International only made payments for the services up to winning the initial tender (9 hole course) in December 2018 despite Nkumba offering services during most of 2019.

According to documents seen by The New Times, Nkumba was involved in the various capacities including acting as the liaison between the firm and the client and attending negotiation meetings for the 18-hole course on behalf of the firm.

When reached for comment, Nkumba confirmed to this paper that indeed that he would be seeking legal redress on the issue as an out-of-court settlement had been futile.

According to Gregori International, Nkumba was not involved in the new June 2019 expanded deal and should therefore not benefit from the proceeds.

However, there are documents from the French firm indicating that Nkumba was indeed their representative in the revised larger contract.

An email from the CEO of Gregori International to other stakeholders involved with the redevelopment of the Golf Course, indicated that going forward, Nkumba would serve as the interface between Gregori International and the client – Kigali Golf Course.

The client is represented by a committee that includes different stakeholders such as Rwanda Social Security Board, Rwanda Housing Authority, Rwanda Development Board, and members of the Golf Club.

In an interview with Ange Mutesi, Gregori International’s new representative in Rwanda, the company does not owe Nkumba anything.

Mutesi said that as far as the firm is concerned, they have paid Nkumba as per the contract terms for the ‘Design and Build of the New 9 holes and repairing existing 9 holes of the Kigali Golf Course’.

Mutesi, who was in the company of the firm’s lawyer Athanase Rutabingwa, told The New Times that at no point did the firm issue Nkumba a new contract for the addendum and additional services.

She noted that there have been no amendments to the contract or issuance of a second contract which would warrant additional payments. 

Mutesi emphasised that the renegotiation of the new works expanding the course from 9 to 18 holes was handled solely by Gregori International staff and that Nkumba had no role and played no part.

Asked whether there were attempts to exploit a legal loophole within their terms of engagement, Mutesi said that it was not the case and their decision is guided by the contract.

The works on the course are scheduled for completion before June this year. And, the company has committed to deliver by the deadline, irrespective of the court case.

This will be a relief to stakeholders who were concerned that legal battles would delay the construction of the project.

According to legal experts, what the courts can do, is order the client to withhold some payments to the construction firm until the case is resolved.

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