IGG clears EC’s Shs60b office relocation deal

Electoral Commission head offices on Jinja Road in Kampala. The planned relocation of the electoral body offices to a permanent home has on several occasions hit a snag. PHOTO / FILE

What you need to know:

  • The second phase of the flyover project will affect part of EC’s offices, Kitgum House and Centenary Park, but the roads agency couldn’t proceed with construction works since the electoral body was still entangled in a procurement controversy for the purchase of their new premises.

The Inspector-General of Government (IGG), Ms Beti Kamya, has lifted the ban imposed on the procurement process for the purchase of office premises for the Electoral Commission (EC), the Monitor has learnt.

The IGG’s directive is contained in an April 29 letter addressed to the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama.

“…I hereby lift the ban imposed on the procurement process for the purchase of office premises for the EC to allow the Commission to conclude the process,” the IGG writes.

The letter is also copied to President Museveni, Vice President Jessica Alupo, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, Attorney General (AG) Kiryowa Kiwanuka, Secretary to EC Leonard Mulekwah, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands Dorcus Okalany, and IGG director of special investigations Joram Magezi.

EC spokesperson Paul Bukenya yesterday confirmed receipt of the IGG’s letter and said it was a “major breakthrough towards the electoral body’s relocation process”.

“We have been notified that the investigations were concluded and the procurement process can proceed. We are also under pressure to conclude the process so that we pave way for the Kampala Flyover project. Generally, we have been working towards having new offices and we are happy the IGG cleared us to proceed,” Mr Bukenya said.

The IGG’s clearance puts to rest the back and forth negotiations between EC and the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) over the former’s relocation to pave the way for the multibillion flyover project.

The second phase of the flyover project will affect part of EC’s offices, Kitgum House and Centenary Park, but the roads agency couldn’t proceed with construction works since the electoral body was still entangled in a procurement controversy for the purchase of their new premises.

Background

The IGG received a complaint from a whistleblower alleging that EC officials were in the process of acquiring the former GEMS Cambridge International School in Butabika, a Kampala suburb, from Property Services Ltd, at a whooping Shs90b to house the new EC offices without following the procurement process.

The whistleblower further alleged that the property is sitting on a wetland, and that the owner was only granted a National Environment Management Authority (Nema) license for sports and recreational activities and to build a sewage treatment plant.

Daily Monitor has exclusively seen the IGG’s report titled “Report of investigation into alleged fraudulent process in the ongoing procurement of office premises for the Electoral Commission – Headquarter/18/02/2022,”  following investigations into the alleged flawed procurement process for the purchase of new EC head offices.

The objective of the investigation was to establish whether the procurement process as laid down by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Act and Regulations was followed by the EC in acquiring the premises, among other allegations.

According to the report, investigators analysed a number of documents, including the PPDA request for approval of procurement (Form 5), bidding documents, contract committee minutes, evaluation committee minutes and guidance from the AG on the use of direct procurement method.

Investigators also obtained a report from the chief government valuer on the value of the property, a report from Nema, and a report of opening boundaries of the locus from the Ministry of Lands confirming the area and acreage which the property sits on.

Mr Mulekwah and the EC head of procurement, Mr Robert Boorekwa, were interviewed.

The investigators also physically inspected the proposed premises.

According to the IGG’s investigations, the EC, on four occasions since 2016, attempted to procure office premises but failed to identify one that met its requirements or specifications.

After these attempts, the Commission received three unsolicited applications offering office premises, including Prof G.N Lule – Plot 7,9,11 Block 227 located in Bweyogerere, Wakiso District,  Plot 102/104 Butabika Road, Luzira, Kampala (former GEMS Cambridge International School), and Tayebwa, Sserwadda and Co. Advocates (for Megha Industries) located in Kyambogo, Kampala.

The EC team visited the three premises in November last year.

However, the team observed that Prof G.N Lule’s property could not accommodate the Commission’s IT and print equipment. They also found out that the property offered by Tayebwa, Sserwadda and Co. Advocates had small office space and that the premises were inappropriate for warehouses.

Property Services Ltd’s property in Butabika was found to be fit because it could accommodate the IT and print equipment, has sufficient space for sorting, packing of election materials that are currently handled at Kyambogo, and space to host a presidential nomination/tallying centre whether indoors or outdoors.

The team also found out that the facility had enough space for training, a mother care centre, health facilities for wellness, fitness and sports, and space for future developments, among others.

On November 26, 2021, Justice Byabakama sought guidance from the AG on the use of direct procurement method in the circumstances that EC had failed to obtain a successful bidder through open bidding.

The AG, in a letter dated December 3, 2021, guided the Commission that in undertaking the procurement process, it should comply with requirements set out under Regulation 17 (Direct Procurement).

He also cautioned the Commission to ensure the contract price was within the market price range, which could be established by obtaining a valuation of the same from the chief government Valuer.

Based on the AG’s advice, the EC, on December 10, 2021, initiated the procurement process for the office premises at an estimated cost of Shs60b.

According to Form 8, Record of sale or issue of bidding documents, Property Services Ltd was issued with a bid document on December 17 2021, with a closing date of January 7, 2022.

The deadline was later extended to January 14, 2022, following a request for extension from Property Services Ltd on January 5, 2022.

EC received the bid from Property Services Ltd on January 14, with a bid price of Shs111.3b Value Added Tax (VAT) inclusive.

Quoting the PPDA report dated February 4, 2022, the IGG noted that the national procurement agency advised that the EC should have used the request for quotation method before deciding to use the direct procurement method.


Procurement method cleared

However, the report states that PPDA stated that the use of direct procurement method was based on the urgent need to pave way for the Kampala Flyover project and the failure by the entity to get responsive bids using competitive bidding methods.

“…the authority concluded that the grounds for use of the direct procurement method were justified and in accordance with the PPDA Act and Regulations,” the IGG wrote.

The PPDA also allowed the Commission to proceed with the procurement cognizant of the fact that EC needed to urgently vacate the current premises.

On the property price, the IGG observed the size of the land was approximately 7.550 hectares.

The IGG noted that the government chief valuer advised that the value of the property was in the sum of Shs77.6b as per the current market value.

“…this implies that the bid price for the property offered for sale by Property Services Ltd to the EC at Shs111.3b is over and above the market value of Shs77.6b established by the chief government valuer,” the IGG wrote.

On whether the property was in a wetland, the IGG noted that Nema confirmed that the property is located on a raised and dry land.

However, the IGG recommended that in the process of concluding the procurement, the Secretary to EC should adhere to the guidance given by the AG and PPDA.

The IGG said the EC should also follow its procurement specifications approved prior to the invitation of the bidder for the procurement as provided for under the law.

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