Uganda: Legislators Query Ucaa Over Management of Arua Airport

Kampala, Uganda — The Management of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has been put on the spot over procurement of airport furniture and other supplies worth shs243 million.

Sam Wonekha, the General Manager for regional airports at UCCA, told a committee of Parliament that the procurement was for lounge seats and bagged trolleys for Arua Airport new terminal building. The supply was for 60 seats configured into 4-seater and 5-seaters, as well as 40 baggage trolleys.

The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises led by Chairperson, Joel Ssenyonyi, carried an oversight visit to Arua Airport, where they raised concerns about the inconsistencies with the procurements.

Committee Member Bashir Mbazira asked why UCAA engaged procurement processes with M/s Eclipse/Edilsoil JVC Ltd to supply the airport lounge seats and trolleys and yet the company had been embroiled in several court matters.

"We would like to look at the procurement documentation to ascertain whether you followed the PPDA process. We want to know how you arrived at offering the tender to this company," Mbazira asked.

Ssenyonyi tasked UCAA management to explain why the airport lounge seats and baggage trolleys were procured at such costly prices.

"I did some quick maths here and got puzzled. The total of 60 seats and 40 baggage trolleys cost shs243.3 million. If we imagine each were the same cost, dividing this money by 100 means each cost shs2.4 million. What is so special about them that they cost this much money," asked Ssenyonyi.

Wonekha told the MPs that the seats were procured at the costs indicated because of their quality and durability, particularly that it is the type of seat used in international airports across the world.

He added that taxes and clearance charges also added onto the cost of acquiring the airport furniture in question.

"This was a competitive bidding process and that firm was selected to supply the furniture. This furniture stands the test of time; so we went in for high quality furniture, which is expensive," he said.

UCAA Director, General Fred Bamwesigye, told the MPs that a procurement of this nature could not go undocumented and would he made available to the Committee.

The Committee Deputy Chairperson, Lucy Akello, asked UCAA leadership to explain how they are managing testing for Covid-19 for departing and arriving travellers.

"The health port is there at the arrivals but what happens at the departures? Do you have a testing facility for Covid-19 just like at Entebbe or is it yet to roll out?" Akello asked.

Cornelius Mahmood, the Port Health hotel in-charge at Arua Airport told the Committee that Government had given the role of COVID testing to MBN Laboratories, which has been picking travellers' samples for testing, specifically from Category II Covid countries.

"As the Port Health in-charge and a team from Arua Airport, we are going to start testing just like at Entebbe," said Mahmood.

Wonekha further informed the Committee that the major constraint to growth of the Airport was lack of funding to implement capital projects, noting that Government has not yet provided shs529 billion to implement its development plans.

"The releases, though inadequate, should be timely; because of these delays, many of our planned activities do not progress and we never complete projects on time since we cannot meet our financial obligations to providers," he said.

He also cited other challenges such vandalism and destruction of airport property by the local population, which he says has been rampant in Arua, Moroto, Soroti, Tororo and Jinja.

The MPs commended UCAA on successful works done on the terminal building at Arua Airport that cost shs2.35 billion, as well as construction of an apron and associated taxiways that cost shs7.36 billion.

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