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Kampala-Jinja Road tender process should be protected

By Admin

Added 11th January 2019 05:27 PM

We must not make the same mistakes again and again.

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We must not make the same mistakes again and again.

OPINION

By Richard H. Kaijuka

My attention, and indeed that of my colleagues who have been mandated to offer independent, policy and technical oversight over infrastructure and services procurement through Public Private Partnerships; has been drawn to various un orthodox attempts by potential contractors; lenders, middlemen and international companies to lobby for major tenders hence by passing clearly laid down process.

Whereas, I rarely pick interest in unsubstantiated statements; I was intrigued by recent print and electronic media reports which gave credence to heightened gymnastics of lobbyists for available projects in total disregard of any ongoing formal processes.

According to media reports last week, a Chinese Company, the 17th Bureau Group Company, was reported to have scaled up its demands to be granted rights to build the Kampala-Jinja Expressway as a single-source (non-competitive) direct procurement. This is not the first time for us responsible for the Kampala-Jinja Express way project we were exposed to the 17th Bureau Group Company through its associates. All previous attempts had been ably managed and processed without bias. The 17th Bureau Group Company through its associated parent company failed to meet requisite basic standards in order to competitively prove required experience; technical and financial competencies to undertake this major regional-linking road infrastructure back-borne.

It is therefore extremely surprising that despite the extensive work, time and financial resources both Government and development partners have invested into an exhaustive and open competitive procurement process which began in May 2018; an entity whose associates failed through a formal legal process and applying international best practice endorsed by multinational partners; is attempting once again to disrupt this meticulous work.

For the record, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) acquired the requisite approval to go to market for the procurement of Kampala-Jinja Express Way from the PPP Committee where I serve alongside my colleagues in December 2017.  Subsequently, an Invitation for Pre-qualification was issued on 18 May 2018. This returned enthusiastic interest from eight highly competitive international respondents which were received on 3 September 2018. The 8 bidder entities/consortia were namely;

  1. CCCC-CFHEC                           – A Chinese consortium;
  2. KJ Connect                                – A French and Portuguese consortium;
  3. Strabag/Ictas/Egis/AIIF3/STOA – A consortium made up of companies from Austria, Germany, Turkey, France and Poland; and
  4. Enkula Expressway                – A consortium from South Africa, Uganda and Saudi Arabia
  5. China Railway Construction             – A Chinese consortium;
  6. Shapoorji Pallonji                     – An Indian consortium;
  7. Elevolution Engenharia SA   – A Portuguese consortium and,
  8. CCKS                                          – A Chinese and South Korean consortium.

 
Due to the pre-determined guidelines, set common high qualification standards and a level playing field for all bidders which are common practices for a project of this magnitude and importance to our country, it was important to ensure that the above criteria is not compromised during   the evaluation process that led to the short-listed bidders.

Indeed, it is on record that on December 18, 2018, the Hon. Minister of Works and Transport Hon Eng Monica Azuba Ntege announced the shortlisted pre-qualified bidders as follows:

  1. CCCC-CFHEC                           – A Chinese consortium;
  2. KJ Connect                                – A French and Portuguese consortium;
  3. Strabag/Ictas/Egis/AIIF3/STOA – A consortium made up of companies from Austria, Germany, Turkey, France and Poland  
  4. CCKS                                          – A Chinese and South Korean consortium.

 

According to the procurement process as previously laid out and agreed upon by government and development partners, the pre-qualified bidders will soon receive Request for Proposal documents (RFP) and be able to prepare and publicly submit to Government bids from which the best evaluated consortia will be granted the right to negotiate for the Finance, Build, Operate/Maintain and Transfer of Kampala-Jinja Express Way.

The above process has thus far remained un encumbered and is progressing very well. Attempts to circumnavigate and or, introduce non-open tender bidders or disqualified actors through other processes than those to which the government; development partners and regulators signed up will amount to a defeat of our own laws and regulations.

Whilst I do not intend to dispute the media reports that pointed at machinations by the Chinese Company to try and wrestle the otherwise well- structured transaction from its rightful legal process of procurement, I choose to be comforted by high level Government’s commitment to the project as demonstrated by the Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development  and the Minister of Works and Transport in their respective correspondences and evaluation of the 17th Bureau Group Company previous proposals.

I also take comfort that in September 2018, China Railway 17th Bureau Group Company were clearly informed by the Minister of Finance in writing that the Kampala-Jinja Express Way had already been approved by Government as a PPP and was in the advanced stages of procurement. The Minister’s letter, obviously informed by technical, financing and over a 30-year aintenance period considerations, indicated that Government would not undertake the hugely expensive Project under an equally expensive different mode of financing. I am aware that the Minister however invited China Railway 17th Bureau Group Company to participate in other available infrastructure.

It is our Committee’s considered opinion that a project of such magnitude and importance to Uganda and the region that has attracted the support of multiple partners including the EU, AFDB, AFD and IFC must be protected from any external interference in order to maintain the integrity of government; its laws, processes and achieve value for money. The structure and planned delivery of Kampala-Jinja Expressway as a PPP is also intended to reverse the traditional road infrastructure procurement methods that have ignored the need plan for maintenance and related costs over the long term.

I am aware that the on-going PPP structure for Kampala-Jinja High Way Project consists of a carefully considered ‘end to end’ approach for the 30-year design, build, finance, operation, maintenance and transfer back to the Government. The operations and maintenance stage is a unique aspect of the PPP, because it capitalises on efficiencies the private sector (including local Ugandan companies and entrepreneurs) offers for whole life management of the road asset.

In addition, the procurement will include local materials purchases; local personnel recruitment, student placements and training and skills transfer among others. The PPP Committee which is mandated to deliver this project alongside UNRA, has already committed to a competitive dialogue-stage in the procurement process to ensure that the private bidders will be required to innovate, in co-ordination with government, to ensure the most cost-effective and time-efficient proposal is attained.

By contrast, single-source direct procurement has caused problems for our country on prior large infrastructure projects. Such projects are well documented and indeed their details are in public domain. Our mandate is to stop leakages; cost escalations, poor construction standards and delays in project implementation that have perpetually greatly constricted the development of infrastructure in this country.

We must not make the same mistakes again and again. Let us protect and maintain an open tender competitive procurement process to completion, to develop the best possible, well maintained and functional road project for Uganda.

The writer is the Vice Chairman Public Private Partnership (PPP) Committee 

 

 

 

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