The Observer (Kampala)

24 August 2014

Uganda: Embrace New Guidelines for Procurement

editorial

The country has been left in some confusion as regards the upgrading of the Mukono-Katosi-Nyenga road.

First, the company that supposedly won the deal to build the 74-kilometre road is reported to have dissociated itself from the company in Uganda - with the same name - which signed the contract with the Uganda government. In the meantime, nearly Shs 25bn has already been paid out by the government to the contracted company.

Last week, MPs toured the road and found that some 13 kilometres had already been covered. This raises the question: which company is doing the Mukono-Katosi roads. Could it be that the Eutaw that signed the contract in Kampala only shares a name with the Eutaw in the United States? There are strong indications that the Uganda government has been taken for a ride.

But as the police tries to get to the root of the matter, the junior minister for Works, John Byabagambi, last week made a startling revelation; he suggested that as many as 50 per cent of the firms that bid for public contracts in this country were not genuine. Quoted in The Observer on Friday, Byabagambi said these companies were so crafty they could beat any amount of due diligence.

These are perilous times for a country whose president only recently renewed his commitment to fight corruption. Despite Byabagambi's telling statistic, however, it is important that everything possible is done to ensure that these disingenuous firms do not find an ingenuous government bureaucracy. Instead, technocrats in government should develop some kind of sixth sense to beat the craftiness.

A good starting point is the guidelines recently issued by the secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi. As The Observer reported on Friday, Muhakanizi wants a three-phase system of due diligence involving accounting officers, financial institutions and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority.

It is important these guidelines are followed and any breaches thereof followed by stringent sanctions. Obviously the crafty businessmen and women could find loopholes, but the public procurement system needs to ensure it remains one step ahead of those who want to steal from Ugandan taxpayers.

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