Last weekend, Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate Labour Day, or International Workers’ Day as it’s known in some jurisdictions. Lest we forget, Labour Day is traditionally a day to pay tribute to workers and their contribution to the development of nations.
Labour Day celebrations have over the years evolved into occasions of soul-searching to address employment challenges. This year’s national theme, “Enhancing innovation for increased employment creation and labour productivity: A sustainable Covid-19 response,” was therefore appropriately chosen.
Workers and labour matters are very important to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA). As a regulator of public procurement and disposal, the authority holds a vital key in ensuring that the regulatory function facilitates creation of employment.
To this end, guided by the provisions of the PPDA Act, (and other policy and legal frameworks), PPDA has undertaken initiatives and reforms in the public procurement sector that are meant to spur creation of jobs. And in addition to the PPDA Act, one other overriding point of reference in developing the PPDA initiatives and guidelines is the Buy Uganda, Build Uganda (BUBU) policy.
The main thrust of BUBU, enacted in 2014, is “to support the production, purchase, supply, and consumption of local goods and services.” The policy recognises the role of PPDA in the realisation of these commitments. The policy takes note of the preference and reservation schemes developed by PPDA in 2018 to favour local providers. These schemes cover specific geographical areas and particular eligible sectors as specified in the PPDA Act.
Once a particular sector within a given geographical area has been specified as eligible for a reservation scheme, eligible bidders exclusively within that locality are allowed to participate in the procurement process.
The locals compete against each other for the procuring and disposing entity (PDE) to obtain the best offer. In this way, local manpower is deliberately protected from competition which under the normal procurement process would probably see jobs going to ‘foreigners’.
The reservation scheme is also applied by threshold (in monetary terms). Foreigners are barred from participating in the procurements if the value is within these ranges:
• Road works worth Shs45 billion and below,
• Other public works worth Shs10 billion and below,
• Procurement of supplies worth Shs1b and below,
• Consultancy services worth Shs1 billion and below
• And non-consultancy services worth Shs200 million and below.
Since 2018 when PPDA developed the guidelines on reservation and preference schemes, tangible results, especially in respect to employment, have been realised.
A classic success story is Southern Range Nyanza Limited (SRNL). In his 2016 State-of-the-Nation address, President Museveni directed that uniforms and clothing-related materials for government agencies should be procured locally. To actualise the directive, PPDA issued guidelines for procurement of uniforms and related clothing materials to providers that have manufacturing facilities in the country. Since 2018, figures show that SRNL has not only benefitted from this reservation, but there has also been a knock-on effect.
According to Cotton Development Organisation, SRNL consumed 2,000 bales of cotton lint in FY2019/2020 up from 1,450 bales in FY2018/2019. SRNL employees have increased from 902 in 2016 to 3,050 in 2020. Only 11 employees are expatriates.
PPDA will thus continue to support PDEs to tap into the existing legal framework for timely delivery of quality goods and services while building the capacity of Ugandans to be in charge of their development agenda.
Mr Benson Turyame is the executive director PPDA