The EC last month awarded a number of tenders to foreign firms
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) on Monday directed the Electoral Commission (EC) to re-evaluate bids for Picfare Industries Ltd, Graphics Systems Ltd, Inline Print Services and New Vision-Hi-tech JV, which were controversially sidelined in the sh185b tender award that was given to foreign fi rms.
PPDA's decision reversed last month's award of the multi-billion shilling tenders to some foreign firms to print ballot papers for the 2021 general elections.
PPDA also advised the EC to set aside some of the lots (batches) for participation on national and resident providers in the future procurement to be undertaken by the entity.
In a letter dated October 26, 2020, PPDA executive director Benson Turamye informed the EC that they had received a complaint from Uganda Printers and Packaging Association (UPPA) dated September 30, 2020 alleging a number of irregularities in the procurement of ballot papers.
The EC last month awarded a number of tenders to foreign firms that included Tall Security Printers (UK), Uniprint (South Africa), United Printing and Publishing (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Adare Sec Ltd (UK) and Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company (Dubai).
In their complaint, UPPA noted that the evaluation was not properly conducted in a number of areas which included local firms such as Graphic Systems, Picfare Industries, Inline Print Services, Multiplex and Wave Media. They said the firms were unfairly eliminated on grounds of lack of evidence of successful completion of three contracts of similar nature and complexity.
The local firms argued that they had submitted copies of local purchase orders for printing and supply of ballot papers and other relevant assignments as proof that they had carried out similar work.
The EC contended that New Vision-Hi-tech was eliminated for failure to state delivery schedule in its bid to which the entity could have sought clarification.
UPPA stated that the bid prices of some of the local printers were lower than those of the foreign bidders and that the prices at bid opening differed from the awarded prices indicated in the notice of best evaluated bidder.
The association noted that all the printing contracts were awarded to foreign firms despite the presence of verified local printing capacity and in breach of the Buy Uganda Build Uganda policy and the PPDA guidelines of 2018.
What the investigation discovered
In its investigations, PPDA confirmed that the EC officials inflated the cost of printing ballot papers and that the prices quoted at the opening of the bids for Adare Sec for Lot 7 were different from those awarded.
Adare Sec, which won the tender to supply ballots under Lot 7, quoted sh2.6b at bid opening for one of the bids and the evaluated price was sh2.6b. However, EC awarded the company the tender at sh4.8b, which was a price variance of sh2.2b.
Within the same lot and in another category of ballots, Adare Sec price at bid opening was sh3.9b and the evaluated price sh3.9b, but EC awarded them the tender at sh5.2b, which was a price variance of sh1.3b.
Within the same lot, Adare Sec had another bid for ballot papers and quoted sh4.4b and the evaluated price was 4.4b, but EC awarded the company the tender at sh5.9b, a price variance of sh1.5.
In another bid still under Lot 7, Adare Sec quoted the price at sh4.5b and the evaluated price was sh4.5b.
However, EC awarded the tender at sh6.1b, which was a price variance of sh1.6b.
"The entity failed to account for the changes in the prices at award from what was in the evaluation report," the PPDA said in its report.
"The minutes of the contracts committee had the prices in the notice of the best-evaluated bidder for Lot 7, which were different from those at bid opening and evaluation. The submission that it was a clerical error was not a reasonable justification as if Adare Sec is contracted at the prices indicated in the notice without rectifying them. This could lead to a financial loss depending on the dimensions printed," the PDDA stated.
The PPDA noted that in accordance with section 8 (1) © of the PPDA Act, they instituted an investigation into the issue of evaluation for the requirement of successful completion of three contracts of similar nature and complexity.
"The requirement was properly evaluated on the three local firms (Inline Print Services, Multiplex and Wave Media) since the evidence submitted did not meet the requirement of having successfully completed three contracts of similar nature and complexity," the authority noted.
PPDA, however, added that, "the requirement was not properly evaluated on the bids by Graphics Systems and Picfare Industries, which had attached evidence of having successfully completed three contracts of similar nature and complexity in form of letters from the institutions supplied with ballot papers and local purchase orders".
PPDA investigations also found out that, "the EC evaluation introduced a new criterion that was not in the biding documents issued".
"The committee introduced a value and duration of the execution of the three contracts as sh10b in the immediate last 10 years of large amounts of security printing materials which was used to eliminate New Vision-Hi-tech. The act, therefore, amounted to an amendment by modifi cationand substitution of the evaluation process other than the criteria and an introduction of another evaluation criteria other than that stated in the bidding document."
"The EC evaluation committee did not properly evaluate the bid by the New Vision- Hi-tech on the delivery schedule.
"The bidder indicated in the bid submission sheets under paragraph (b) that offered to supply the requirements in accordance with the delivery schedule stated in statement of requirement in the bidding document," PPDA said.
UPPA chairman Archie Kiwanuka said they were happy with the decision PPDA had taken.
"We are happy that our concerns have been addressed. We are waiting to see what actions the EC will take. We have actually saved the Government some money," Kiwanuka said.
EC spokesperson Paul Bukenya said they had received the PPDA report.
"We are still studying its findings and recommendations before we decide on what we will do next," Bukenya said.