By Ibrahim Kasiita, Darious Magara and Leticia Kahubire
A delay in the process of awarding contracts for road works costs the taxpayer $1m (sh2.5b) per month, an appalling situation that calls for early groundwork and planning to shorten the procurement process.
David Luyimbazi, the director, planning at the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), said the delays have affected service delivery.
“It takes about four to seven months to procure just a single project. We cannot meet the lead time to prepare the project, and this affects drawback of resources (using the allocated funds),” he said.
“The level of preparing and planning is key in timely delivery of projects.”
Luyimbazi said over 90% of UNRA funding is spent on procuring goods and services, adding that if delays in the tendering process are checked, a lot of government resources and time would be saved.
He was presenting a paper on the effect of procurement procedures on resource absorption and project implementation in Uganda at the launch of the first national development policy forum at the Kampala Serena Hotel last week.
The forum was organised by the National Planning Authority (NPA). It will act as a platform for constructive policy debates that should lead to a better understanding of Uganda’s developmental issues and enable stakeholders identify economic and social issues critical to the realisation of medium-term plans and the Vision 2014.
Benson Turamye from the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA) blamed contractors for poor planning.
“Some contractors take on multiple jobs at the same time and use the same equipment and human resource on the projects, which affects performance” he said.
Turamye noted that some contractors bid at a low price to get the project, but turnaround and raise the contract price.
Jonathan Wanzira, the chairperson of the Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors, advised that contractors be categorised so that they are awarded jobs based on their experience, financial and technical ability.
“People need to know that there is enough work for everyone,” he said.
“We should also encourage local content in big contracts that are usually awarded to foreign firms. This will help build capacity.”
James Baanabe, the commissioner energy resources in the energy ministry, said contractors do not know how to compile bid documents, which affects their chances of winning contracts.
“If contractors do not package their bid documents well, they will be thrown out. The law does not permit to ask the contractor to bring missing documents,” he said.
Baanabe called for flexibility in the procurement process to enable competent firms meet the evaluation criteria.
Mike Nsereko from the Uganda National Chambers of Commerce and Industry urged the Government procurement process to target small and medium business enterprises to help them grow and create jobs.
Mbabazi asks for procurement reforms
The Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, asked for reforms in the procurement process of government contracts so that unnecessary delays are avoided.
Mbabazi said the delays have stifled government services and called upon responsible institutions to employ competent teams that can quicken the processes.
“Procurement should facilitate government operations, not stifle them,” he said.
Mbabazi also asked the PPDA to update the Government on the progress it is making on the implementation of the new legal regime for procurement.
He noted that prior preparation by government officers and the bidders could save a lot of time and government resources.
Reacting to a comment from the audience, Mbabazi agreed that institutions such as the Inspectorate General of Government, Police, courts and State House have been used to cause unnecessary delays in procurement.
He cited the Kanungu Bridge, which he said has not been constructed because of petitions of complainants about the tendering process, leaving the locals to suffer without a bridge for several months.