The Inspector General of Government (IGG) has halted the bidding process for the Karuma dam project, pending an investigation into possible procurement malpractices.
Some government officials are alleged to have accepted bribes in return for giving undue advantage to the bidder who appeared poised to win the contract last week. This is the umpteenth time the tendering has stalled, throwing the project at least two years behind. Earlier, a court injunction had halted the process and the technical evaluation of bidders had to be repeated on court order.
The IGG says it she concerned by a whistleblower's allegation that no due diligence was carried out on the company that is said to have qualified to have its financial bid evaluated. This is obviously a serious allegation that couldn't be ignored. However, while it is important that we have a transparent and corruption-free procurement process, we must be mindful that time is of the essence.
The longer it takes to build Karuma, the more expensive the project becomes and the more likely the economy will suffer as load shedding returns in a few years from now. A poor country like ours can't afford to waste time trying to get a relatively small project off the ground. Sadly, at the moment it looks almost impossible to have a clean procurement process in Uganda.
Earlier this month, the IGG was again forced to cancel the tender for the construction of phase two of the NSSF house in Nakasero, citing corruption. Because of this state of affairs, procurement procedures have been made to look like a deliberate way to delay development. Projects that tend to move fast are those in which the funders undertake the construction themselves.
For instance, the Entebbe Express Highway is already underway. We are almost certain that if the process had gone through local bidding, it would have delayed for several more years. The authorities need to devise a system that ensures not only transparency and efficiency but also expeditious execution of the projects at hand. There have been so many procurement goofs that we should have learnt from them by now.