Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Uganda: ID Deal Not Approved, Says PPDA

11 April 2010
Kampala — The Procurement Authority, PPDA, did not approve the award of the sh185b deal to supply the National Security and Identification system to the German firm, Mühlbauer Technology Group, documents obtained by The New Vision revealed.
In a letter of March 12, the authority advised that the procurement be subjected to an open and competitive bidding process in order to ensure transparency and value for money.
"The unique strength and advantages of the provider in order to justify the exclusion of any fair, equitable and competitive selection process of any form, is absent," read the letter to Stephen Kagoda, the Permanent Secretary of the internal affair ministry.
"The fear of causing delays to the electoral processes of the 2011 can be mitigated by the use of a shorter bidding period to be granted by PPDA on request by your entity," said the letter, signed by PPDA director Edgar Agaba.
Agaba also warned the permanent secretary to take full responsibility for the project in case he opted to ignore his advice.
"In the event that the above position is not acceptable to your entity and you decide as the accounting officer to proceed under national security concerns, you should take full responsibility for the conduct of the procurement process."
The ministry, according to documents, did not follow the advice. The permanent secretary subsequently signed the sh185b contract with the German firm on March 19, one week after the letter of PDDA.
PPDA in the letter noted that the formal application for deviation from the procurement rules did not give enough details of the project.
The application was silent on the cost and source of funding for the project. "It is important to know the extent of financial responsibility involved," the letter stated.
Agaba indicated that the law prohibits the initiation of any procurement proceedings for which funds are not available or adequate.
The scope, objective, time frame and output of the project were also not provided, as required by procurement rules.
"This information is crucial for the development of the statement of requirements and evaluation criteria to be used in the development of a comprehensive solicitation document and resulting contract," PPDA noted.
The ministry was also silent on the details of the firm that was to be awarded the contract or whether it met the requirements for participating in public procurement.
The performance track record of the firm, including completion of similar projects in the region was not known, and there was also no result of any due diligence test on the firm.
The Procurement Authority also said the National Security Council, headed by internal affairs minister Kirunda Kivejinja, never agreed with PPDA on the items that are to be on the restricted list in any procurement.
The National Security Council is empowered by law to manage its procurement and disposal. However this is done on the basis of a list of items to be procured, agreed upon annually with the PPDA.
The contract
It is not known how the Government arrived at the decision to award the contract to Mühlbauer. The process started when President Yoweri Museveni on April 2 wrote to the internal affairs minister to revive the ID project and give guidance on the process of issuing identity cards.
The ministry, acting on the President's letter, identified Mühlbauer and signed a contract which put the total cost of the project at 64m euros (sh185b).
This cost, however, does not include the cost of implementing the project. The contract also exempts the company from paying taxes, including VAT or import duties.
Kenya will pay sh53b and Tanzania sh41b for more sophisticated identity cards, yet they have larger populations, according to The Observer.
Under the terms of the contract, the ministry of ICT has to implement the project.
It is not known whether the ministry, which is already overwhelmed with the national backbone infrastructure project, has the capacity to do so.
In a letter of March 21, Kagoda directed the permanent secretary of the Ministry of ICT to put in place measures, mechanisms and procedures to implement the project.
"As a matter of urgency, put in place measures, mechanisms and procedures to ensure that all actions agreed are executed on time," wrote Kagoda.
A down-payment of 23m euros (sh64.4b) was made to the firm within seven days of signing the contract. This month, the Government is expected to pay another 18m euros (sh51b) for enrollment of the project.
By July, a third payment of 9m euros (sh25b) needs to be made for software and databases.
The Ugandan Government also needs to pay 13m euros (sh36b) to clean the voter register by August and 631,000 euros (sh1.7b) for maintenance support.
Blank ID cards using the barcode technology will cost the Government 22.5m euros (sh63b) for 15 million cards, amounting to $2 per card.
Yet, experts say for that money, the Government could have gotten a card with micro-chip technology which can accommodate a lot more information, such as driving licence, medical history, criminal records, education data and social security status.
Micro-chip technology can also authenticate fingerprints and photographs, which are additional safeguards against fraud and forgeries.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Bujagali dam project faces 7-month delay

East African (Kenya), by Barbara Among / Wednesday, 07 February 2007

Uganda’s crippling energy crisis is expected to continue for at least another half-year, following reports that the construction of the new 250-megawatt hydropower dam at Bujagali, will delay by seven months. Sources familiar with the project — which is at the heart of major efforts to end the power shortage — say the delay is due to a failure to complete bidding for the dam. Negotiations with various parties, including financiers is also said to be behind schedule. This means that the construction of the dam, to be built on River Nile and which was expected to join the national grid by January 2010, will start at the end of the year, if there are no further hiccups.
Original plans for meeting the country’s electricity needs specified that bidding for the Dam and the power plan EPC should be concluded in June 2006 to allow the completion of the financial evaluation. Financial closure for the project was supposed to be achieved in October 2006, with construction starting last December. According to information made available to The EastAfrican, a revised project plan will now be sent to the financier — the World Bank — later this year with financial closure expected in July.
Negotiations with various parties including financiers are not concluded,” said James Banaabe, the acting Commissioner for Energy. “The project has to go to the World Bank board first for approval in April 2007 and hopefully have financial closure in July. That is the main reason for not taking off.” Sources within the Industrial Promotion Services Ltd (IPS) — the company that is in charge of developing the project — told The EastAfrican that construction of the dam is expected to start in May.
“We are hoping to come to a financial closure by May, though the original plan is for July,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. “The project EPC evaluation was done and we are in negotiations with the preferred constructor.” The official said that most of the money needed to fund the project, whose total cost is estimated at $400 million-$500 million, is yet to be available. “Response from the lenders has been overwhelming; however the larger part — the 80 per cent debt — is not there and you can only mobilise the contractor when you have the full financing.”
The project lenders include the European Investment Bank (EIB), the African Development Bank (ADB), and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IPS Consortium proposed a financing plan with a total budget of $500 million on an 80-20 per cent debt-equity ratio. The lenders have been evaluating the project since September last year and are presently evaluating the environmental impact assessment and the credit worthiness of the sponsor, the Ugandan government. Energy Minister Daudi Migereko was optimistic about the project: “Salini, an Italian company, won the bid as the contractor but we have not signed a contract yet. I would not want to go into details of the project but everything is on course.”
This is the second time that the Ugandan government is attempting to build a dam at Bujagali. The first effort, under which construction was supposed to have started in 2003, was mired in allegations of corruption and protests from environmentalists opposed to the destruction the dam would cause to the Bujagali Falls, a popular tourist destination for white-water rafters. The construction was eventually suspended and the World Bank Group withheld its financing after corruption investigations by the US Justice Department and by the World Bank’s Fraud and Corruption Unit. In 2003, AES Nile power — then the main developer, announced that it was pulling out of the project for economic reasons.
However, following the escalation of the power crisis in Uganda, in which a prolonged drought has cut hydropower production by more than half to about 120MW, against a peak-hour demand of 380MW, the government decided to rescue the Bujagali proposals. In April 2005, the government selected a consortium of investors led by Industrial Promotion Services (Kenya) Ltd as the new sponsor for the Bujagali Hydropower Project. Bujagali is seen as a medium-term effort to stem the power crisis that has knocked at least two percentage points off economic growth.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Uganda: Govt Unveils National Identity Card

The German firm, M¼hlbauer Technology Group, yesterday unveiled the new national identity card at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
The ID card will be made of polycarbonate (plastic) material. It will have as visible features a picture of the card holder, a signature, date of birth, sex, card number, date of expiry, a thumb print and the national flag with the map of Uganda.
It will have additional invisible features, such as tribe, clan, village, parish, district, details of spouses, with provision of up to four wives, and children.
The sh185b project will first cover the new voters for the 2011 general elections, estimated at 3.5 million people. They are supposed to get their ID cards by October this year.
Under the second phase, Ugandans who are already on the voters' list, a total of 10.5 million, will have their bio-data updated.
They are expected to get their ID cards in the next two years.
The German firm yesterday kick-started the training of 450 trainers who will in turn train 8,000 operators to carry out the voter registration at parish level.
However, M¼hlbauer Technology Group did not respond to media reports which claimed that the price of the project was highly inflated.
The Observer yesterday quoted similar projects in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania which cost sh53b and sh41b respectively although they have larger populations.
Questions have also been raised about the procurement process. A tender for the ID cards project in 2005 was cancelled by the IGG due to irregularities and corruption.
The three bidders were South African Face Technologies, Indian Contec Global and an Israel company called Supercom. Mühlbauer Technology Group was not one of the bidders.
Instead, the German company bid for the Electoral Commission bio-metric voter registration last year but the process was stopped by the procurement authority, PPDA, in December due to irregularities in the evaluation process. PPDA advised the Electoral Commission to re-evaluate the bids.
However, the commission did not follow this advice and abandoned the tendering process altogether.
Last month, the Ministry of Internal Affairs signed a contract with Mühlbauer for not only the ID cards but also the bio-metric voter registration system.
A third concern raised is about the type of ID card, which uses barcode technology.
The East African Community secretariat as far back as 2008 advised Uganda to abandon that type of technology because it was unsuitable and not compatible with other countries in the region.
"The experts advised Uganda to use the smart card technology which Tanzania has opted for," said Monique Mukaruliza, the chairperson of the EAC council of ministers, during a session of the EAC Parliament in December 2008.
The smartcard technology uses a chip instead of a barcode. A chip can accommodate a lot more information, such as medical records, criminal records, educational data, driving permits and social security data.
It can also authenticate fingerprints and photographs, which are additional safeguards against forgeries.
"A smartcard is critical for e-government," an expert told The New Vision.
"You present your card to a hospital and it shows your blood group, medical history, the treatment you are on or the medicines you are allergic to.
"It can also contain A'level and O'level results or the schools somebody attended."
Asked for a reaction last week, internal affairs minister Kirunda Kivejinja, also the chairman of the security committee handling the project, declined to give details, arguing that the national identification project was a matter of national security.
"This is a national security matter I don't have to discuss with the press," he said.
He added that the deal would not be presented before Parliament as some MPs had demanded.
"There are certain things I do not have to go to the Cabinet and Parliament for."

Who will heal Uganda’s sick health sector?

By Barbara Among

When his teenage wife went into labour, John Emegu wedged her on a bicycle between himself and his grandmother and pedalled furiously for 11 miles. But on reaching the nearest hospital, his relief quickly turned to despair.

Though healthcare is meant to be free in Uganda, nurses told him to buy a Shs20,000 maternity kit including rubber cloves, saline solution, surgical needle and a plastic ‘delivery’ sheet, which were all out of stock in the hospital. By the time he had done so—and paid another Shs10, 000 to convince an intern doctor to attend to his wife—12 hours had passed. “I don’t know what is happening,” said Emegu, 22, as he waited for news at Soroti regional referral hospital. “I am getting desperate.” His wife and newborn baby survived—unlike his first child who died in the same hospital the year before.

The Emegus’ traumatic experience is not unusual in a country, where the healthcare system is in crisis despite the billions of shillings of mostly donor money flowing in every year. Visits to a dozen health centres across the country revealed a chronic shortage of beds, drugs and medical personnel, confirming a recent verdict by the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda that “service delivery and general care is almost not there”.

The government admits that the situation is dire. “Lack of adequate resources is still limiting hospitals to provide the services expected. In many instances, basic emergency infrastructure, supplies and specilised equipment are inadequate,” reads the latest annual health sector performance report. The dire situation has meant that senior government officials and wealthy Ugandans have long used private hospitals or flown outside the country for treatment, as was the case with some of President Museveni’s daughters, who delivered their children in Germany.

Members of Parliament are registered with private health insurance companies of their choice, paid for by taxpayers. But now even ordinary Ugandans, the intended beneficiaries of the free healthcare system, are increasingly seeking private healthcare. “I don’t see any reason of wasting time; you go to the government hospital yet there are no drugs,” said Joseph Kusemerwa, a resident of Kicucu village, Kabarole District in western Uganda.

So why is it dysfuntional?
Such attitudes are stirring public debate on why the free healthcare system is so dysfunctional. While it is expensive to run, money does not seem to be in short supply. Donors gave more money towards health than any sector of government, amounting to Shs321 billion in 2009/2010.

The government added a further Shs465 billion and this year Shs1.3 trillion went to health. In total, health spending accounts for 9.6 per cent of the budget, significantly higher than the sub-Saharan average of 8 per cent. Local healthcare monitoring groups and government officials say Uganda’s heavy reliance on outside funding is one of the main problems, with a lack of overlap between the government’s priorities and those of donors.

The focus of HIV prevention and treatment is one example. While 1 million Ugandans are estimated to be HIV positive—3.3 per cent of the population—some Shs549 billion went to Aids campaigns in the financial 200/2010, more than half of total healthcare budget. Most of the money came from the US’s Pepfar (President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief) and USAID.

‘Unreliable donor funding
Local players in the sector say the unpredictability of the donor funding makes it difficult to plan and when it comes, there is lots of overhead expenditure and what is spent on actual projects is actually less. “The money, which is off budget, has had issues of accountability, which has resulted in delayed release of other funds. Some such as Gavi have been withheld. If we had an organised system of receiving even off budget funds, we should not be seeing such problems,” said the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr Asuman Lukwago.

The effect of the heavy HIV focus is clearly visible; even in rural areas the voluntary counselling and testing centres are usually well-equipped compared to the general health units. In Kabarole District in Western Uganda, Rose Kayesu, 24, was battling malaria at home. The nearest health centre only had one type of malarial drug, and she was allergic to it. Enock Kibite, her husband, said he sometimes spends more than half of his Shs75,000 monthly earning from carpentry on malaria drugs alone.

According to the Director General of Health Services, Dr Ruth Achieng, the bulk of donor support to the health sector (41 per cent) is off budget and a significant proportion (21 per cent) of government expenditure on health mainly goes to emoluments. Sector players also point to poor coordination among health system players and this has led to fragmentation of services. “Actors have immense interest in M & E (data), at the expense of investment in service delivery. Many actors are measuring the same indices,” said Dr Achieng.

District health directors, many of whom did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, said it was “unacceptable” to run out of drugs, but also unavoidable. “There’s no money,” a director said. Government’s 2009/2010 health sector report shows that only 35 per cent of health centres do not run out of essential drugs. As of August, reports on the ministry website indicate that stocks available at both the National Medical Stores and Joint Medical Stores are generally below recommended minimum central stock level and health centres also registered low stock levels of essential drugs.

The corruption drawbacks
But corruption is a major problem hampering healthcare delivery. The Auditor General’s 2009 report shows that Shs310m meant for drugs went missing that year. “The end users did not also have knowledge of these (missing money, deliveries either). The missing drugs included ARVs, coartem, condoms and oral rehydration salts,” the AG report said.

In November 2010, the National Drug Authority said more than 100 ghost health centres created by corrupt officials had been receiving medical supplies and equipment. By contrast, many genuine health centres lack even basic equipment. So in places like Awcha, Gulu District, the theatre serves as a ward. At Kiyombya Health Centre, Southern Uganda, mothers in the maternity section are expected to pay for parafine for lamps.

Large sums of money are simply stolen. In 2005, nearly Shs150b from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) and the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria was unaccounted for. “The healthcare system is very sick but the one who is supposed to heal it is very corrupt,” said the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda in its report.

Brain drain effects
There is also a major shortage of medical professionals. Kitgum Hospital in northern Uganda had five doctors in the 1980s. Today, there is one. Arua Hospital needs 38 doctors but has 11; Kabale has five instead of 35.

Data from the Health Ministry indicates the country has only 37,368 health workers. Of these, 8,978 are nurses, 4,535 are midwives, and only 1,118 (3 per cent) are doctors. Data also indicates that nursing assistants still form a big number of the health workers--6,371 (17 per cent). “If we don’t handle this problem now, in the next 10 years, Uganda will have no clinicians or physicians,” former Director General for Health Services, Dr Sam Zaramba, warned at a health conference last year.

The World Health Organisation says Uganda’s doctor-to-patients ratio of 1:25,000 is low even by African standards. Uganda graduates more than 200 doctors every year but most migrate to neighbouring countries such as Rwanda where pay and working conditions are better. However, even the few medical workers employed in Uganda’s health sector often abscond from duty. Government investigation show that 40 per cent of doctors and 50 per cent of nurses receive salary but are absent from duty.

In cases where money has been spent on appropriate inputs such as medical supplies, in many cases the staff to dispense the supplies are absent or not recruited. “You find that the same doctors supposed to be working for the government are also working for donor funded projects yet our numbers are already few. This worker is over stretched and they cannot be efficient any more. And the reasons I have heard cited for leaving government facilities is little pay,” said Dr Lukwago

Dr Achieng puts the problem candidly as, “ethical erosion.” Some Shs2.6 trillion is needed to rehabilitate hospitals across the country, the ministry says. For clinicians like Mr Richard Kyeyune, and the patients who visit the dilapidated health centre he runs in Masaka District, that money can’t come soon enough. “When it rains, we send patients away because we are scared the roof will fall on them,” he said.

When skewed priorities hurt heath care delivery

When the money does get through spending priorities often seem skewed. In 2009, Shs439million meant for medicine was diverted to foreign travel. Parliament last months rejected the Health Ministry’s budget after they discovered that the ministry officials had diverted more than Shs2 billion meant for maternal health to seminars and workshops on HIV/Aids, among others.

A scenario given by Uganda Medical Workers’ Union show that the ministry of health owns expensive recent model 4x4 vehicles, totaling 2,935, yet hospitals in smaller towns often lack a single functional ambulance.

In Soroti, there is an ambulance – but no fuel. After Jocy Asio’s father paid Shs30,000 for petrol, the 19-year-old suffering from post-natal bleeding was rushed to the hospital only to be told there was no blood. At health centres like Kinoni, Mbarara, a double-cabin truck is used as an ambulance. The medical workers’ union point in a document that the ministry official vehicles can provide three well- equipped ambulances per sub-county and the Shs28 billion spent on fuel can build and equip five open heart surgery units.

At Mulago National Referral Hospital, it is not uncommon to see patients sleep in the corridor in the night due to overwhelming number, mothers in labour being shuffled, due to inadequate number of beds and patients often diagonise but asked to buy medicines from private pharmacies or clinics.“We put four of them (children) on the bed and some sleep on the floor,” said a health worker in Kyenjojo, western Uganda, explaining how he deals with overcrowding.

Meanwhile, programmes to tackle malaria, which is the number one killer disease in Uganda, as well as diarrhea, respiratory diseases, maternal and infant mortality, are chronically underfunded. “HIV/Aids and direct project funding affects funding for other sectors. We are insisting that the money is channeled into the system other than specific project funding,” said Dr Achieng during the health science week conference. “There is a need to look at the system as a whole, from human resource to infrastructure.”

State of hospitals

GULU HOSPITAL: The referral hospital is all but a dilapidated structure that has been condemned for human use, though plans are underway for a new modern hospital. Also, some sections have been refurbished. The maternity ward, children’s ward and medical ward have given some hope to visiting patients—if only service delivery was equalled.
Beds. The hospital is supposed to accommodate 250 inpatients but it overflows with more than 367.

Staffing. Specialist care remains a hurdle. Instead of having 40 doctors, there are only four doctors, of which two are retiring next year after reaching the retirement age and there is no replacement yet. According to the director of the hospital, Dr Athoney Onyach, a doctor on a daily basis is supposed to attend to only 30 patients but each is attending to up 100 patients.

Drugs. Supply has improved unlike in the past where patients referred to buy medicines from clinics and many skipped treatment due to biting poverty. Missing specialists. Ear, Nose and Throat doctor since 2005 when the structure was built (equipment are idle), pathologists left in 2006, gynecologist left two month ago.

BUNDIBUGYO HOSPITAL: The hospital administrator, Mr Ronald Mutegeki, says the hospital is in a sorry state and needs to be overhauled. He said the sewer system broke down several years ago and the hospital is still using old equipment, for instance, fire extinguishers which were installed in 1969 when the hospital opened have never been replaced. The hospital uses sand for firefighting.

Staffing. The hospital lacks a dispenser, radiographer, staff accommodation, dressing equipment, an anesthetist and a specialist to work on an ultra sound scan. Equipment. The hospital also lacks autoclaves, refrigerators, sterilisers and an EMO machine (used when anaesthising patients).

Drugs. The stores assistant, Mr Erasto Kamadi, says the hospital has been running without switchers, flagyl, ciprofloxacine for six months and ORS for two years. The hospital also lacks gloves and patients are supposed to improvise before they are worked on.

SOROTI HOSPITAL: An emergency operation had to wait for a couple of minutes. Reason? Load-shedding, and a standby generator for the hospital did not have fuel to run it. “It is a big challenge for us here, especially when we have an emergency to work on. Funds allocated for running the generator are not sufficient,” a doctor, who declined to disclose his identity for fear of reprisal, said.

Patients. The regional referral hospital also caters for Amuria, Bukedea, Kaberamaido, Katakwi, Kumi and part of Karamoja region. But authorities say it has not been able deliver to expectations due to numerous challenges ranging from inadequate staff to lacking to sufficient drugs.

Shortages. Dr Joseph Epodoi, a senior surgeon, said the hospital has a capacity of about 250 beds, which the unit has since outlived. He said the hospital is experiencing a high demand for blood due to increasing cases of malaria among children. The hospital currently depends on the Mbale-based blood bank.

Graft. A probe by the Health Services Delivery and Monitoring Unit in 2010 revealed massive graft, including theft under unclear circumstances of a computer containing vital information on the implementation of HIV/Aids programme at the hospital. It is alleged that last year, drugs worth Shs50m was stolen and about Shs7m meant for the repair of the hospital generator has since not been accounted for.

Uganda: German Firm Wins National ID Contract

A German firm yesterday confirmed that it had won the controversial national identification project. The Mühlbauer Technology Group spokesperson, Tilo Rosenberger, said the company had been awarded the contract at sh185b.

"Mühlbauer Technology Group announced that it has received an order for the realisation of a national identity card project," said Rosenberger.

He said the award worth sh179b will be implemented over a three year period. The deal comprises the provision of mobile data enrollment systems for the capturing of personal data, the creation of a central population data base as well as the establishment of a personalisation centre for the biometric identity documents

Mühlbauer indicated on its website that it is involved in more than 200 identity projects and supports numerous governments and authorities in implementing identity documents.

The Government last week signed the contract with the firm at the offices of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The German-based company was, however, sourced in contravention of procurement rules, according to sources. Efforts to get a comment from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority were futile as the board chairman and executive director were said to be out of the country.

"The deal was treated as confidential and documents related to it were sent to the board chairman and executive director," said a source at the authority.

Minister for Internal Affairs Kirunda Kivejinja, also chairman of the security committee handling the project, declined to give details on the role played by the Government but said the project would soon be implemented.

He said the deal will not be presented before Parliament as some MPs had demanded.

"There are certain things that I do not have to go to Cabinet and Parliament for," said Kivejinja, before asking, "Do you think it is such a big deal? If it is your mandate, you implement it."

Reasoning that the national identification project was a matter of national security, the minister declined to give details on when and how the project would be implemented.

The revelation that the project has been awarded to the German company brought a new twist to the court battle between the Government and the South African data processing company, Face Technologies.

The firm sued the Government for breach of contract, saying it had an existing contract with the Government to implement the national identity project, having emerged winner in the bidding process in 2006.

Though the Government declined to discuss the fate of Face Technologies, it said the country could not be held hostage indefinitely by the court process.

The new price of sh180b quoted by the German company is slightly lower than the sh194b that was quoted by Face Technologies in 2005. Two other bidders had offered to do the job at sh200b and sh302b respectively.

The IGG stopped the procurement process in 2006 and investigations revealed that the process was marred with irregularities.

Uganda: No Compensation for ID Firm - IGG

THE Inspectorate of Government has ruled out compensation to Face Technologies, a South African firm, that won the bid to make national identity cards.

Face Technologies earlier this month served the Attorney General with a notice of intention to sue the Government for halting its contract to make national identity cards. It wants sh87b in compensation.

The company claims the Government committed itself when it offered them the tender to manage the National Population Databank and Identification Solution project.

But the IGG said the Government did not sign an agreement with the firm.

"They don't have any claim against the Government. The contract had not been signed. A notification of a post-evaluated bidder does not amount to a contract," Faith Mwondha told The New Vision.

The IGG probe report, obtained by The New Vision, says that the notice of award to the best-evaluated bidder, or a decision to award a contract, does not amount to a contract, according to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act and Regulation.

"The notice to award the contract to the best-evaluated bidder should be withdrawn and rescinded immediately pending other action by government," the IGG recommended.

The project, which has dragged on for two years, involves the production of 12 million national ID cards, 14 million registration certificates and one million Smart Cards.

The Government wanted to issue ID cards to all Ugandan citizens over 18 to help it verify people's identity and domiciliary and enable the provision of electronic government services.

The project, however, got embroiled into multiple scandals in February 2006, when former state minister for planning Isaac Musumba claimed that another company offered better terms than Face Technologies.

The IGG halted the process and started investigations after one of the losers, Contec Global, complained that they had been unfairly treated in the evaluation of the bids.

The investigation established that the procurement process of the vendor, who would implement the project, was riddled with illegalities. The probe also found that the process was characterised by patronage and in-fighting by public servants who had vested and even competing interests in the outcome.

"Consequently, the procurement process defeated the principles of objectivity and competitiveness through which the value for money could be achieved in implementing the project," the IGG said in her report.

The negotiation committee, according to the report, prematurely recommended that the contract be awarded to one of the vendors when critical issues on finance and revenue had not been concluded.

In addition, the committee did not disclose to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) contract committee that Face Technologies, whose proposal had been evaluated as best at $92m, had floated a recovery schedule.

It proposed to recover $151m during the five-year period when it would build and own the project before transferring it to the Government, $59m more than it invested.

The report further pointed out that the UBOS contracts committee was not involved in the initial stages of the procurement.

Instead, the report said, the procurement process involved the implementation committee, the steering committee and the bid preparation and evaluation committee, all established by Musumba.

The investigation further revealed that Musumba exerted undue influence on the evaluation committee to pass firms which had not met the set criteria, either during the pre-qualification or the evaluation stage.

Nabongo of UBOS, who was a member of the evaluation committee, revealed that included Contec Global due to pressure from Musumba, who had personally called him.

"From the evidence gathered, it can also be reasonably inferred and concluded that Musumba was fronting and lobbying for Contec Global."

The probe established that Musumba initially only wrote to Contec Global, inviting it for negotiations with the Government, yet it was ranked third bidder. When it was pointed out to him that his action was contrary to the PPDA regulation, he then wrote to Face Technologies and another bidder, Supercom.

The report also implicates the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Ham Mulira, who was then executive director of the Uganda Computer Services.

"Mulira failed to disclose his prior interaction with Face Technologies and to safeguard the integrity of the process he was engaged in," the IGG's report says.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

West Nile:Besigye still the political juggernaut

On the trail with the 2011 Presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye

It’s that typical sunny morning in Dufeli village, Moyo, when the village is embraced by dust and hot wind and the soil glisten as it reflect the hot morning sun ray.

Half naked children play by the potholed murrum roads, their skin ashen by the ground the play on. Together with adults, they weave and merriment to Kizza Besigye’s convoy as it snakes through their village, combing for votes.

The convoy came to a stop at a homestead, where graves line the compound; it’s the family home to the late Orosula Endreo, who perished in a motor accident together with his wives and children. Together eight family members are buried here.

“The roads in this area are bad, my brother died with his family while on their way from a wedding, their car hit a ditch and overturned” the home caretaker said. The accident occurred last month.

Dufeli is a village at the extreme end of Uganda; 4km away from the Sudan-Uganda Border, to get there, one has to drive through the rocky hills and gully roads, making the drive a frightening venture.

The village suffers from water shortage, during the dry seasons, the crops wither and when the rains return, the gardens get flood. In addition, the elephants from the Panzala reserve area destroy the crops in rainy seasons as they look for food.

“Here, we don’t feel the hand of government and the NGOs that reach here, only come to do research,” said Mary Asumpta, who graduated a fortnight ago with a degree in Development Studies from Gulu University.

Asumpta, like many other youth in the area have no hopes of getting employment anytime soon. In Dafuli, residents have the option of labouring in the gardens, venture into fishing or do retail business with their neighbours in Sudan.

“Business is tough here, transport is non existence and when you get to the border, you have to pay taxes of not less than sh20, 000 for a basket of fish” said Moses Vurri.

The issues raised in this far end of Uganda however cuts across the West Nile region. When asked, the people in this region outlines lack of electricity, poor road infrastructure and water shortage as the top most priority they would want the next President to deal with.

The region gave birth to Uganda’s third President, Idi Amin and when he was overthrown, several of its sons, who were soldiers in the National Army, resorted to rebel activities that destroyed the social and economic facets of the region.

It was only in the mid 2000s that the peace deals between the rebel groups and government ushered peace in the region. People are now concentrating on developing their lives but like their neighbours in Acholi and Lango sub-region, the region is yet to get on its feet.

According to the National Bureau of Statistic, the population of West Nile stands at 2,813,800 people and the district with the highest number of people is Nebbi, followed by Arua.

The main road from the capital Kampala to the main town of Arua has been tarmac and this has reduced travel hours from eight to six and made travel safer. Business people can now travel at night, which is convenient.

The region has the largest number of ex-servicemen and government is now promising to pay their entitlement. Government has granted the region more districts bringing the total to eight. So will these achievements change the political landscape?

Though the smooth road was constructed by 2006 elections, it did not translate into votes for NRM candidate Yoweri Museveni.

Their resentment they say stems from bad roads and lack of electricity plus poor social services.

Although the roads are fair within the urban centres, the greater part of West Nile and major roads to Sudan, their major trading partners, are impassable and the bridges are yet to be upgraded from wood to concrete or permanent status.

The West Nile region is one of the only two regions not connected to the national grid, the other being Karamoja. Efforts by government to take electricity to the region are yet to yield positive results. The 3.5megawatts Nyagak hydropower project stalled two years ago.

Going by past elections, West Nile is largely opposition turf. Kizza Besigye won in five of the six districts in the region.

In Adjumani, Museveni scored 11,277 to Besigye’s 19,919. In Arua he scored 67,436 to Besigye’s 103,133.

In Nebbi Museveni got 54,208, while Besigye got 56,663. Museveni again lost in Moyo with 11,610, with Besigye getting 14,901 and in Yumbe with 19,832 to Besigye’s 24,297.

It’s in Koboko that Museveni got 26,842, while Besigye got 2,694.

However, in counties like Vuura and Okoro where Museveni has always won, the votes are reducing. In 2001, Museveni got 64%, 60% in 2006 while Besigye for 31% in 2001 to 34% in 2006.

In Okoro, Museveni got 74% in 2001, Besigye 20%, in 2006, Museveni got 51% in 2006 and Besigye 40.5%.

The current parliamentary seats however give a different picture of the political landscape showing NRM with the majority. Of the 20 MPs, the ruling party has eight followed by FDC with six. The rest are taken by independents (four) and Uganda People’s Congress (two). Of the seven district leaders in the region, six are NRM, while only one is FDC.

Despite having more MPs and district leaders in the region, NRM’s presidential candidate did not perform well in the last election.

The local people say the MPs and local leaders concentrated on their campaigns fearing the mention of Museveni would cost them votes. In addition to old sentiments, this year, factors like wrangles over money within NRM district leaders would be an additional factor in favour of Besigye.

Last month, shs700m given by NRM candidate to women’s groups in the four district of Yumbe, Koboko, Arua and Maracha was shared by NRM leaders and given to their campaigned agents. In November sh10m given to his campaign team to organise his elections was hijacked by officials.

When Kizza, as he is popularly called in West Nile arrived on Monday 24 for a week long campaign, the euphoria of 2006 was not lost.

The showdown of who wields the axe in the region came in the town of Arua, where the NRM organised a party, alongside Besigye’s rally. The curtains came down on Sarturday,29, at 4pm, when Besigye entered town, crowds poured on the street, singing and dancing to songs such as “Toka kwa barabara, Besigye imeingia, toa gaishya yako, tunataka Besigye. (Give way, Besigye has entered, remove your rubbish, we want Besigye).

Others chanted in the local language; “Anyia emi eza oyee, (we have eaten your meat for nothing)

In his campaign, Besigye rode on issues that have always given him the majority votes in the region. He promised West Nile that electrifying the region is his top most priority, followed by road construction.

The sentiments were high on the poor quality of education as Besigye outline result from Primary leaving examination. “Yumbe got 27 first grade, all from private schools, Nebbi got 57, and 30 of which are from private schools, Adjumani, Marcaha, Arua, all the same poor performances, where is the future of the region,?” Besigye asked.

He outlined his plan as building more classrooms, re-training teachers, doubling teacher’s salary to sh400, 000 and providing lunch at school.

In comparing Amin and Museveni, Besigye touched on positives codes in Koboko, Amin’s home town. He said Amin deserved recognition for contributing to the development of the country. He said Amin built schools, army barracks, and the international conference centre. Amin, started the process of taking electricity to West Nile from Jinja before he was overthrown in 1979, this option still remains open.

The sentiments over the sale of Okoro corporative Society in 2004, and allegation of it having been bought by President Museveni’s brother Salim Sale, is still high in Paidha. The population said they are still grieved by the cutting down of Lendu forest, the largest man made forest in the region and others like Ossi, Awang and Okavu could still play in Besigye’s favour if the huge crowd that turned up to listen to him was anything to go by.

On the dusty, road from Moyo to Yumbe, an old man, stopped Besigye’s convoy, he had one request, “Help us get our payment as ex-servicemen,” he said. Several of such requests were made at every rally in West Nile region. The IPC candidate promised to pay thousands of ex-servicemen their due arrears.

He promised to make Agriculture the engine of the economy; his government will set up irrigation schemes in the region, avail farmers tractors for hire at sub-county headquarters and build silos in each region to stabilize the prices of farm commodities during surplus and offer food supplies in the face of famine.

The FDC government will upgrade Arua airfield to an international airport.

Dr Besigye explained why the lost in past elections and assured his supporters that they will win the February 18, elections. In the last elections, he said, we were a young party and in addition, we were not prepared as a party. However, we now have committees at every polling station.

“We did not win for two reasons, one, other parts of the country took long to realize NRM party is evil and also our votes were stole, because we, ourselves were not organized enough to protect our votes,” he said.

He promised that no amount of intimidation will prevent his party from announcing own result. He said his team will control polling stations, tally results at its own tally centre and announce them.

His message of “change is coming for a better Uganda” inspired voters. “Besigye has the capacity of convincing people and for me, I am sure this may not remain verbal, he is going to fulfill them, not in a year or two but over a period of time,” said David Acidri, 40, a Mechanic.

If a crowd in West Nile region is anything to go by, then Besigye still remains the political juggernaut he has been in West Nile region.

Political conflict

However, the failure by Besigye’s camp to amicably solve a conflict involving two of their leading party officials in the region seems to be working against Besigye’s win in Maracha district.

MPs Alex Onzima (Maracha) and Kasiano Wadri (Terego) have battled over the creation of Maracha since 2006. This was solved last year by returning Terego to Arua. However the pull and push over the location of the district headquarters led to Onzima’s coziness with NRM officials that culminated in his expulsion from FDC and his eventual defection to NRM.

Onzima’s supporters feel alienated from the party by the FDC. “But Onzima is still popular here. We support him because he is fighting for a cause that will benefit all of us,” says Moses Drawuzu.

In Arua Municipality, there is the unresolved conflict between incumbent FDC MP Akbar Godi, now an independent, with Aminah Atako, contesting on FDC ticket. Besigye, only made a diplomatic statement while in Arua that, “They are our people and we believe in democratic principals.”