The building, which was a prominent landmark, caught fire on September 20, last year.
Vision Reporter
Journalist @New Vision

EDUCATION | MAKERERE | IVORY TOWER 

KAMPALA - Plans for Makerere University management to ensure the campus celebrates its centenary jubilee with its main building (Ivory Tower) reconstructed could hit a snag after a firm linked to the Ruparelia Group petitioned the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) to halt the procurement process. 

In a letter dated January 17, 2022, Mansoor Saki Atiku, the PPDA Appeals Tribunal registrar directed Makerere University accounting officer Yusuf Kiranda, to submit all the documents related to procurement process to the tribunal for review. 

“In accordance with Section 89 (5) of the PPDA (Amendment) Act 2021 and Regulations 17 and 18 of the PPDA (Tribunal) (Procedure) Regulations, 2016, you are hereby ordered to suspend any further action on this procurement process with the exception of the extension of bid validity and securities, where required. This is to request you to submit to the tribunal, not later than January 19, 2022, the entire procurement action file,” Atiku wrote. 

The documents that Atiku wants Makerere to share include, the invitation for bids to the various bidders, bid proposals, copy of the detailed bidding document issued to the bidders, record of issue and receipt of bids, all forms related to this procurement, the evaluation report and minutes of the evaluation committee, contracts committee minutes for the procurement and all correspondence. 

The building, which was a prominent landmark, caught fire on September 20, last year. 

Office equipment and other valuable information were destroyed in the fire. 

Makerere University has concluded all structural and architectural designs necessary for the reconstruction of the building and management wanted it up before October this year, ahead of the centenary celebrations. 

New Vision has since established that M/S VCON Construction (U) Ltd, one of the bidders who were disqualified, had in December applied to PPDA for administrative review, after a special committee formed by the university secretary found out that they were rightly disqualified by the contracts committee. 

Invitation bid 

On September 17, 2021, Makerere University published an invitation to bid notice in the newspapers for the restoration and construction of the main building. 

A pre-bid meeting was held at the main building parking area. Sources noted that during the pre-bid meeting, bidders raised a number of technical issues in the bidding document and responses were given and agreed upon. 

“Because of the changes in the bidding document, it was agreed that the deadline for submission be extended from September 20, 2021 to Friday October 29, 2021. All bidders were issued with the signed copy of the minutes,” a source noted. 

On Friday, October 15, 2021, Makerere published a notice of addendum to the bidding document for the restoration and construction of its main building and extended the bid submission deadline.

Firms up for bid 

A total of 11 firms purchased and were issued with the solicitation document and these included China Railway 18 Bureau Group Co. Ltd, SMS Construction Ltd, Arab Contractors Ltd, M/s Excel construction Ltd, M/s Zhongmei Engineering Group Ltd, M/s Seyani Brothers Ltd, M/s Dott Services Ltd, V-Con Construction (U) Ltd, M/s Concrete Construction Ltd and Ambitious Construction Ltd.

Nine firms submitted and had their bids opened. 

The Makerere University contracts committee then approved Dr Nathan Kibwami, Dr Roseline Nyongarwizi Akol, Prof. John Baptist Kirabira, Associate Prof. Stephen Mukiibi, Paul Agaba and Eng. Christina Kakeeto as members of the evaluation committee. New Vision also learnt that the evaluation methodology used was technical compliance selection, which involved four sequential stages - preliminary examination on a pass/fail basis to determine the eligibility of the bidders and assess their administrative compliance to the invitation. 

Non-eligible and non-compliant bids were eliminated from further evaluation. 

This was followed by detailed evaluation to determine the technical responsiveness of eligible, compliant bids to the technical specification and terms and conditions in the invitation. Bids that were not substantially responsive were eliminated from further evaluation. 

The other step was financial comparison to examine and rank financial bids. 

The lowest price eligible, compliant, substantially responsive bid was ranked first and declared the best evaluated bid. 

The committee proceeded to the post qualification evaluation to determine whether the best evaluated bidder had the capacity and the resources to effectively execute the procurement. Preliminary examination eliminated no bidder as required in the solicitation document. 

However, under the detailed evaluation, five firms were eliminated and these included M/s V-Con Construction (U) Ltd. 

Other firms

Other firms are Zhaughuo Oversees Construction Engineering Co Ltd, Krishna Construction Co. Ltd, Jiangsu CJI Uganda Co. Ltd, China Nanjing International Ltd, Scaffold Engineering & Amp; Construction Ltd, Canaan Construction Co Ltd, Sadeem al Kuwait and Reliable Engineering and Décor Ltd.

University report 

According to the university’s report on the company’s application for administrative review, M/s V-Con Construction (U) Ltd, linked to business tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia and his son, Rajiv Ruparelia, was eliminated because they allegedly had no valid practicing certificate and academic qualification for the project manager, no valid practicing certificate for the site engineer, no proof of academic qualification for the building works foreman and no valid practicing certificate for the mechanical engineer. 

It is also alleged that there was no practicing certificate and academic qualification for the quantity surveyor, no proof of the relevant academic qualification for the health and safety officer, no proof of academic qualification for the ICT engineer, no proof of relevant academic qualification for the conservationist and no proof of relevant experience of the sociologist. 

“The company did not provide the requisite five signed agreements/ contracts executed in Uganda for buildings, did not provide contracts equivalent or sh20b each in the last three years,” says the report, dated December 30, 2021. 

It is also alleged that the company did not provide evidence of ownership or lease agreement of a wheel loader, among others. Four firms reached financial evaluation/ comparison, including Seyani Brothers & Amp. Co Ltd, Excel Construction Ltd and the Arab Contractors Ltd.

 The evaluation team recommended M/s. Excel Construction Ltd for the award of the contract for the said works at sh20,053,627,463 and on December 8, 2021, the contracts committee approved the recommendation. 

On December 9, 2021 the best evaluated bidder notice was displayed with the removal date of December 22, 2021. 

On December 23, 2021, M/s VCON Construction Ltd, through their lawyers, Walusimbi and Company Advocates, wrote to the university secretary vide their letter Ref. No. NK/LI/ VCON/12/2021, requesting for administrative review, pursuant to Sections 89 and 90 of the PPDA Act, 2003. 

The application for administrative review was accompanied by a receipt as proof of payment of administrative review fees of sh5m, in compliance with Reg. 11 (1) of the PPDA (Administrative Review) Regulations 2014, SI No.16/2014. 

On December 28, 2021, Makerere University accounting officer Yusuf Kiranda appointed a committee to review the application and report back to him within seven days. 

The committee found that the M/S VCON Construction Ltd failed to fulfill almost all requirements as indicated in the solicitation document. 

The committee noted that M/S VCON Construction Ltd produced valid practicing certificates for Ivan Kutosi, who was the construction manager, but did not present a valid practicing certificate for Eng. Denis Adrole, the site engineer. 

The committee also reportedly found no proof of relevant academic qualification for Yasin Mubiru, the foreman, nor proof of relevant academic qualification for Philly Mpaata, who was the quantity surveyor. 

On previous and current works of equivalent nature, Pearl Business Park, the committee found out that even though M/S VCON Construction Ltd produced a running contract of $10m VAT inclusive, no certified copies of interim payment certificates were submitted.

“The evaluation committee properly found that the applicant’s bid was not substantially responsive to the minimum requirements of the detailed evaluation and, accordingly, was right to reject it at the detailed evaluation stage, in compliance with regulation 19(4) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (Evaluation) Regulations, 2014. 

"The committee, therefore, finds no merit in all the grounds raised by the applicant and recommends that the application for administrative review is rejected,” the report reads.

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