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MPs food saga: Court rules on Tuesday

By Farooq Kasule

Added 12th January 2019 02:20 AM

“The crisis was caused by Parliament and it should not be there because my [interim] order catered for it," says trial judge Lydia Mugambe.

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“The crisis was caused by Parliament and it should not be there because my [interim] order catered for it," says trial judge Lydia Mugambe.

FOOD MATTERS

KAMPALA - The High Court has set Tuesday next week (January 15) as the day it will make a ruling on Parliament's canteen saga.

That day, court will be expected to decide whether Hellenar’s Restaurant and Bar Limited should continue providing catering services to Parliament until the main case is heard and a verdict delivered.

The date for the ruling was set by trial judge Lydia Mugambe on Friday after hearing from both parties concerning a permanent injunction sought by Hellenar’s Restaurant pending determination of the main case.

Mugambe said the interim order she issued on December 21 last year was not intended to create a crisis at Parliament, but to instead ensure that the MPs get food as the court battle goes on.

“The crisis was caused by Parliament and it should not be there because my order catered for it,” she said.

Recently, the judge issued an interim order stopping Parliament from terminating the services of Hellenar’s Restaurant until January 11.

Lawyers Peter Allan Musoke and Swabur Marzuq are arguing that the balance of convenience is on their client’s side, who have been providing catering services at the date of filing of the case on November 28, last year.

On the other hand, the parliamentary commission, through its lawyer Sitina Cherotich and John Kalemera, told court that the balance of convenience lies on their side because they risk being sued by the successful bidder (Romeo Restaurant) for breach of contract that could lead to wastage of tax payers' money.

Hellenar’s Restaurant has been providing catering services to Parliament for the last five years. Last year, they sued the parliamentary commission accusing it of breach of the bidding process.

The restaurant's contract expired in December last year, prompting the Parliamentary commission to conduct a bidding process in which Romeo Restaurant emerged the successful bidder.

Romeo is to offer MPs a buffet at sh11,500 compared to Hellenar’s sh13,500.

However, being dissatisfied with the process, Hellenar’s Restaurant boss Walter Anywar petitioned the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) for review, but it dismissed his appeal on grounds that it was filed out of time.

This prompted him to petition the High Court, seeking legal redress.

In his suit, Anywar claims the parliamentary commission deviated from the evaluation methodology and criteria which was set out in the bid solicitation document.

The Hellenar's Restaurant owner also accused Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige of condemnation of his restaurant to bribery without according it a fair hearing and dismissed the application for administrative review on account that he had not paid the requisite fees.

He wants court to declare as illegal the bidding process in which Romeo Restaurant was declared the best bidder. He claims the parliamentary commission adopted and relied on a different evaluation methodology and criteria to select the best bidder.

Anywar contends that he was compelled to seek legal redress because the administrative review process has proved financially costly, time-consuming and bureaucratic yet it has apparently failed to address the questions arising from the impugned procurement process.

Anywar argues that the endorsement of the bidding process by the parliamentary commission led by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and the clerk was flawed.


Parliament faces sh600m penalty

Meanwhile, Anywar has asked court to impose a sh600m penalty on Parliament for contempt of court orders.

He claims that although the court directed him to continue operating pending the disposal of the main suit, the parliament administration instead opted to close it contrary to the court orders.

But Parliament's legal team are insisting that could not allow Hellenar’s Restaurant to continue operating yet its contract had expired.


How it started

It all began on March 13, 2018, when the parliamentary commission invited bids from eligible firms for the operation of the member’s restaurant and bar at Parliament.

This was after the expiry of Hellenar’s Restaurant and Bar Limited’s contract.

On June 13, 2018, the parliamentary commission headed by the Speaker announced Romeo Restaurant as the best evaluated bidder - with a certain factor of lowest price.

Dissatisfied with the awarding process, Anywar of Hellenar’s Restaurant sought review from the PPDA, which dismissed his appeal on grounds that it was filed out of time.

“I am aggrieved by the acts, processeS and the decision of the respondents. I have since learnt that their decisions constituted were illegal,” Anywar contends.

 

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