The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Appeals Tribunal has dismissed an application challenging the decision by the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) to select a new contractor for printing certificates and result slips.
The applicant, Adare Sec Ltd, trading as Kalamazoo, has been printing and supplying certificates and result slips to Uneb for three years since 2014. During their contract, they also printed Uneb's academic documents dating as far back as 2012.
But when their contract expired in 2017, Uneb, through restricted international bidding, shortlisted other entities last year without involving Kalamazoo.
"It is with great shock that procurement process for printing and supply of academic certificates and result slips was underway (evaluation stage), the entity having used restricted international bidding method, without Kalamazoo, having been invited to bid," Mr Toby Forbes, the Kalamazoo head of international sales, complained through a letter.
In September last year, Mr Uthman Segawa, the PPDA acting executive director, asked the Uneb executive secretary, Mr Dan Odongo, to investigate the complainant's issues.
Mr Odongo then informed Mr Forbes on October 1, 2018, that due to the classified and sensitive nature of the procurement, they could not follow regulation 14 of PPDA. The letter further reveals that Uneb was dissatisfied with the quality of their work.
"The entity had dissatisfaction with the quality of your work. In some cases, certificates were delivered with mismatching photos, no signatures on the certificates and wrong text printed. Those errors and delays coupled with numerous apologies impacted negatively on the image of Uneb," Mr Odongo said.
Errors in documents
Daily Monitor has seen documents and email exchanges between Kalamazoo and Uneb officials, indicating that several academic certificates printed since 2012 had errors.
For instance, about 310,000 transcripts of Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) and Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) of 2015 did not bear the Uneb chairperson's signature.
Mr Forbes acknowledged the error in his letter to Uneb on March 5, 2018. He apologised and offered to reprint the certificates.
However, this was not the only case. Ms Maggie Nanozi, the Uneb examinations officer, also requested for reprints for 2012 UACE certificates as they bore wrong photographs.
"This is to bring to your attention that there is an error of interchanging candidates' photos on UACE certificates for the year 2013. The same mistake was made on UACE 2012 certificates. Please make a thorough check for 2013. This check should also be made before printing UACE 2014," Ms Nanozi wrote to Forbes.
Kalamazoo officials said on some occasions, they were frustrated as Uneb would take more than six months to respond to queries they raised before starting to print the certificates.
"Mismatching of photos was not directly caused by Kalamazoo as the original data and hard copy printed photos were supplied by Uneb," Mr Forbes said.
He also informed the Education minister and the permanent secretary about their grievance and petitioned PPDA to suspend the procurement in order to allow them participate.
Mr Benson Turamye, the current acting PPDA executive director, granted their request.
On April 9, the chairperson of the Uneb evaluation committee, Mr Nexon Nuwagaba, said Kalamazoo's bid of March 27 had errors.
Three days later, Mr Forbes clarified that the pricing unit cost they submitted was Shs1,466.25 cents for certificates and Shs229 for each result slip regardless of the type.
However, Ms Sylvia Nekesa, the Uneb procurement officer, instead announced Smith and Ouzman Ltd on April 15 as the best bidder for the supply and delivery of plastic envelopes for 2019 exams. The company further took over the procurement and supply of result slips and certificates for two years.
Kalamazoo protested to Mr Odongo, insisting their price was lower than that of Smith and Ouzman and called for suspension of the procurement.
On April 30, Mr Odongo wrote to all bidders that the procurement had been suspended.
Fresh evaluation of the bids was done and after the review, Uneb maintained that Kalamazoo prices were Shs16,815 while Smith and Ouzman Ltd had Shs8,810.
"Smith was the lowest bidder," Mr Odongo ruled.
Kalamazoo appealed for the fourth time to PPDA, seeking to be declared the best bidder but Mr Turamye rejected the petition and on June 19, he told Mr Odongo to proceed with the procurement.
Kalamazoo further appealed to the PPDA Appeals Tribunal. The five-member tribunal chaired by Ms Olive Zaale Otete dismissed Kalamazoo's petition on July 16 and asked Uneb to proceed with the procurement.