President Yoweri Museveni has revealed government plans to disband Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and revert it to the Ministry of Works and Transport.
“We are now going to abolish this UNRA and take it back to Ministry of Works but form road construction companies. We already have one of the army (NEC). We may create more in future. Where these are involved and can do this work, why don’t we give them, because we know the cost per kilometre to tarmac a road, why waste time? If there are government companies that can do the work at a comparable cost….. I will go to the caucus and sort it out. We are not here for business, we are here for the people. The businesses can also make money but should not do so at the cost of low development pace by cheating the government and the country,” Museveni said.
This is contained in a press statement issued by the Presidential Press Unit. According to the statement, Museveni revealed the government plan in a meeting with the Board of Directors and management of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) following various complaints in the procurement processes and delays in implementation of government programmes in what is called strategic investments including road infrastructure, Health, Energy and Education among others.
In June 2012, the government instituted a policy shift from contracting road maintenance works to the use of Force Account mechanism, which means undertaking works of a Procuring and Disposing Entity (PDE) using its personnel and equipment. Museveni also expressed concern about PPDA confusing investments with procurement. He cited an example of a company doing tax revenue that applied to the government to identify taxable rentals, which people are hiding to evade tax at their own cost for a commission.
“This is not procurement. It is an investment to solve a problem. If it is to build a hospital, it is to solve a problem. Unless government wakes up and initiates it, but if it’s private people, you can do due diligence but don’t mix it up with procurement,” Museveni said.
Adding that “We want to buy planes, each one is US$50 million. There are very few companies who manufacture planes in the world, we know them. Then you bring the logic of buying beans, posho etc and say according to PPDA, you manufacture and deliver before we pay you. Aircraft of US$50million you want them to manufacture and deliver before payment? Nobody in the world will agree.”
Museveni added that this also applies to industrial machinery, Health, Defence most of, which are not off-shelf but must be paid for in advance. “For somebody to bring the logic of buying beans and put it in serious government investments is regrettable. It is a big mistake which must be removed,” he said.
“How about people who want development? If you offer this tender and the other complains, and work stops. What I think we should do is work goes on, somebody lodges compliant, you do a review once and continue in court. If they win, they are given damages. If our people misbehaved and made wrong decisions we can arrest them, but the public must get a service,” he added.
The President also wondered why they deal with middlemen and not directly with manufacturers and factories. “Why don’t you in your prequalification insist on factories? If I am buying things for government and local governments, for example, sugar, sugar producers are known. Why pretend as if you don’t know. Why not have prequalification and buy from manufactures. This law is a strategy of acquiring the capacity for the government. Harmonising procurement is good but the way it was done is bad,” he said.
The Minister of Finance Matia Kasaijja cited an example of the Mubende-Kagadi road, which he said could have been completed three years ago but was delayed due to administrative reviews. “Every time the award was supposed to be made there was administration review. We had to make drastic decisions and tell one company to get off. What am saying is, that the law was anti efficient particularly in executing works that needed to be done urgently” he said.
The PPDA Executive Director, Benson Turamye assured the President that under the new law, comprehensive regulations with clear procedures of how strategic investments are going to be handled have been formulated and will be implemented. On the issue of satisfying tenderers at a cost of service delivery, Turamye said the new law has also put in place a complaints mechanism by removing some tiers, adding that only accounting officers and tribunal will be contacted before the court.
“After the tribunal, appeal to the court and this should not hold the procurement. The appeal to the court is on matters of law but procurement will proceed,” he said. On the issue of unsolicited bids, Turamye, said the Cabinet sent the proposal to parliament, which rejected it. He also said they will guide government entities to prequalify factories and eliminate middlemen.