18 November 2012

Uganda: Public Monitoring Can Improve Govt Procurement

National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADs) officials have been accused of corruption, but with the strengthening of the third party forum, where citizens are free to participate, corruption will be history.

Sam Mugasi, the programme executive director for NAADs, says for the institution to perform the intended roles, the citizens should be actively involved.

"There cannot be effective monitoring without the involvement of the third party. This is because the people are the ones who are most affected by the project and, therefore, should be involved," Mugasi said.

He was launching of the Interfaith-based Action for Ethics and Integrity (INFOC) Citizen Monitoring NAADs Public Procumbent Baseline Survey Report, 2012 at the Namirembe Resource Centre recently.

Mugasi called upon the public to report any kind of misconduct of NAADS officials.

"If you see someone taking bribes, report to the authority," Mugasi urged.

"We are going to put up a complaint handling system, where people will air out their grievances. We shall also have a free hotline, where people can report anyone dealing in corruption."

Augustus Niwagaba, a Makerere University don and chairman of INFOC Uganda, says in order for effective change to occur, citizens must have a minimum level of power to exercise.

Citizens should have a say on the disciplinary measure on the local authority, he says.

"We need to build a critical mass of active citizens, who can be able to take leaders to task in case of mischievous activities regarding property management."

To have citizen capacity building, there should be a friendly working policy.

Niwagaba says this gives the public the mandate and security because it spells out clearly what is expected from the service providers.

In addition, the public should also have adequate information on the projects that are made by the NAADs officials in order to evaluate them.

Citizens should be trained to oversee stages of public procurement. This is mainly done by facilitating dialogue with the Government or through the use of social accountability tools and techniques in monitoring public expenditure and service delivery.

Charlotte Mwesigye of INFOC says citizens can help the Government achieve effective monitoring and evaluation of its procurements if the Government's internal agency provide them with access to procurement documents.

She says cooperation and legitimacy of citizen groups is critical to gain trust and confidence of the public audit institutions for access to the procurement documents they hold.

Similarly, high levels of cooperation are required from government agencies that are found to have irregularities in their procurement process.

While procurement may vary from one country to another, Mwesigye says they all should involve procurement planning, preparations, advertising and pre-qualification, bid evaluation, award of contract and implementation.

Consequently, monitoring of the NAADs projects should be conducted throughout the entire process, as each of these stages has loopholes for manipulation and fraud.

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