Uganda: MPs Query Nytil Masks Contract

Members of Parliament have questioned how textile firm Nytil was awarded a contract to produce and supply facial masks across the country.

The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, on Tuesday said the manufacture of masks should be extended to all companies that have the capacity to produce them.

"Now that government is to provide masks to Ugandans, I seek to know how ordinary companies and young people making masks can benefit. The issue of equity in the procurement of masks should be clear and transparent. If Nytil is good, let it compete with other companies," Ms Kadaga said.

She directed the Ministry of Health to brief the August House on how they chose Nytil.

Conditions

In his address on Monday, President Museveni said it will take Nytil two weeks to manufacture masks for all Ugandans above six years of age. All members of the public must wear only Nytil masks.

Mr Museveni extended the lockdown for another two weeks until everyone has been supplied with the facial mask.

Covid-19 is mainly spread through droplets from an infected person as a result of sneezing or breathing to soft parts (eyes, mouth, nose). More than 4.8 million people globally have contracted Covid-19 while more than 319,000 have died.

Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, the Kyadondo East MP, said many Ugandans, who have been producing masks, have been side-lined by the new guidelines. They have been selling each mask at between Shs1,000 to Shs3,000.

The Ministry of Health last week issued an amendment statutory instrument making it mandatory for everyone to wear a facial mask.

Who owns nytil?

Nyanza Textile Industries [Ntyil] was established in 1954 by the colonial government to manufacture textile in Uganda.

It was, however, sold in 1996 to Southern Range Nyanza Limited, a private company owned by Mr Kishor Jobanputra, who is also a member of the National Response Fund to Covid-19 formed by President Museveni on May 3.

The company, owned by investors under the Picfare Group of Companies in 2014 came to Parliament, seeking a 25 per cent VAT waiver, equivalent to more than Shs5b in order to sustain its operations. They said the waiver would run for five years.

Government had threatened to cancel the VAT concession in the 2014/15 budget before Nytil ran to Parliament and threatened to lay off more than 3,000 employees directed employed by the company. Nytil offers a vast range of products including uniform and fashion fabrics, home furnishings, knitwear, sportswear, casual wears, lingerie and institutional uniforms.

The company supplies all UPDF and police uniforms after President Museveni directed that the uniforms should be locally made. The same company also makes the President's white shirts to promote Buy Uganda Build Uganda.

When Mr Museveni visited the Nytil headquarters in Buikwe near Jinja Bridge in 2018, Mr Jobanputra thanked government for supporting it to expand its operation. Early this month, the MPs on the Budget Committee questioned Shs1.9b captured under government supplementary budget to pay Nytil's outstanding bills.

The MPs questioned why government would settle bills of a private company. The money was part of the Ministry of Finance's request for Shs16b supplementary budget table before Parliament on May 1.

The 10 unanswered questions

1. How was Nytil sourced?

2. What is the capacity Nytil vis-à-vis the demand for the free masks to an estimated 40 million Ugandans aged six years and above?

3. What type of masks are being made?

4. What is the time frame and when does the distribution begin?

5. How many masks are in stock already?

6. What will happen if Nytil fails to beat the deadline?

7. What's the contract price? Is the company paying taxes?

8. How will the masks be delivered to the users?

9. What's so special about Nytil masks?

10. What's wrong with the WHO certified masks?

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