Another plan by government to procure 30,000 bicycles for local council leaders has attracted controversy over lack of transparency in the tendering process. Early this year, the government lost $1.7 million (about Shs5 billion) in a botched bicycle purchase deal involving a ghost Indian company.
In May this year, M/s Nile Fishing Co. (NIFCO) Ltd won the tender to supply bicycles at Shs6.4 billion, but the award has drawn protests from competing firms. Aggrieved companies complain that solicitation requirements in the bid documents were “prejudiced” and limited competition.
“The procurement was not conducted in a manner that promotes the basic procurement principles of transparency, value for money,” one of the bidders complained in a letter to PPDA. “And the procurement was not awarded to the bidder with the best evaluated offer based on the evaluation methodology and criteria detailed in the bidding documents.”
These protestations are contained in a Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA) report released last month. Both the PPDA and ministry, however, deny any wrongdoing.
On April 26, M/s Roadmaster Cycles (U) Ltd contested the Evaluation Committee’s decision, saying that they had the lowest bid of Shs5.2 billion but were surprised that NIFCO was granted the tender.
The committee is accused of unfairly hanging onto “the flimsy [bid] conditionality that the firm should have supplied at least 25,000 bicycles in Uganda in the last three years”.
Earlier, on April 24, M/s Xtra Trucking (U) Ltd had separately complained to Local Government Minister Adolf Mwesigye, also protesting the award of contract to M/s Nile Fishing Company at unit price of $85 against M/s Roadmaster’s $70.
The following day, Mr Mwesigye acknowledged receipt of this complaint and advised the firm to take up the matter with the procurement department of his ministry in accordance with Section 90 of the PPDA Act, 2003. The minister further guided that if the complainant remained dissatisfied, they should complain to the PPDA.
Acting Local Government Permanent Secretary Patrick Mutabwire has since said the difference in price was as a result of the quality of bicycles. He said the leather saddle was made out of expensive buffalo skin.
But dissatisfied firms now want an investigation by Parliament even though PPDA has advised the ministry to disregard the complaints and proceed with the procurement.
Quoting Section 91 (4) of the PPDA Act the report says “the decision of the Authority is that the Application of Administrative Review by M/s Roadmaster Cycles (U) Ltd is rejected. The Entity should therefore proceed with the procurement process.”
On Thursday, Mr Mutabwire told Saturday Monitor: “All I know is that there is this private company called M/s Roadmaster Cycles (U) Ltd which raised complaints regarding the procurement process after they had lost a bid. When I realised they had no basis for their complaints, they appealed to PPDA which raised six grounds objecting to their administrative review.”
He said the ministry’s hands are tied. “We are waiting for the deliveries and the supply is expected to be within three months. By end of September we either have the bicycles or our money back,” he said.
Mr Mutabwire, who replaced Kashaka Muhanguzi, at the peak of the corruption scandal that rocked the first procurement, refuted claims that the bicycles were overpriced.
“Each bicycle would be delivered here at about $85 (about Shs200,000) yet on the open market they go for Shs400,000 each,” he said.