President Yoweri Museveni has disclosed that government is going to abolish Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and take it back to the Ministry of Works and Transport and instead form government road construction companies as part of streamlining procurement processes and improving service delivery.
“Government is doing its own things! 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 road. Why waste time,”Museveni said on Thursday.
“If there are government companies that can do the work at 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 government and the country.”
The President was meeting 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 delay in implementation of government programs particularly in strategic investments including road infrastructure, health, energy and education among others.
In June 2012, the Government of Uganda instituted a policy shift from contracting road maintenance works to use of Force Account.
The Force Account (FA) mechanism is a means of undertaking works of a Procuring and Disposing Entity (PDE) using its own personnel and equipment.
President Museveni last week said he has no problem with the UPDF construction brigade turning into a construction company and do most of government work as well as the National Enterprise Corporation, the UPDF’s commercial arm.
Recently, NEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with aimed at building the former’s capacity to undertake road construction and maintenance projects.
According to the president, using local companies like NEC or the UPDF engineering brigade is cheaper for government since they are not about making profits.
Speaking on Thursday, President Museveni was also concerned about PPDA confusing investments with procurement. He gave an example of a company doing tax revenue that applied to government to identify taxable rentals which people are hiding to evade tax at their own cost but get 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 its private people, you can do due diligence but don’t mix it up with procurement,” he said.
The President also singled out delays in government strategic investments.
“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. Aircrasft of US$50million you want them to manufacture and deliver before payment? Nobody in the world will agree,” he said.
The President said this includes industrial machinery, health and defence among others, 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 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
The president also wondered why government officials deal with middle men and not directly with manufactures and factories.
“Why dont you in your prequalification insist on factories? If I am buying things for government and local govts, for example sugar, sugar producers are known. Why pretend as if you dont know. Why not have prequalification and buy from manufactures. This law is a strategy of acquiring capacity for government. Harmonizing procurement is good but the way it was done is bad,” he said.
The Minister of Finance Matia Kasaijja gave an example of the Mubende- Kagadi road which he said could have been finished three years ago but was delayed due to administrative reviews.
“Two competing companies, every time the award was supposed to be made there was administration review. We had to take drastic decisions and tell one company to get off. What am saying is, that law was anti efficiency 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 cost of service delivery, Turamye said the new law has also put in place complaints mechanism by removing some tiers, adding, only accounting officers and tribunal will be contacted before court.
“After the tribunal, appeal to court and this should not hold the procurement. The appeal to court is on matters of law but procurement will proceed,” he said.
On the issue of unsolicited bids, Turamye said Cabinet sent the proposal to parliament which rejected it.
He also said they will provide guidance to the ministries, departments and agencies to prequalify factories and eliminate middlemen.