Tumwesigye Albus is the Senior Procurement Officer for Ibanda district; one of the new districts recently created in the South Western part of Uganda. In as much as Albus has been practising public procurement, one of the challenges he has been faced with is explaining to the public wherein the law it is required and why the procurement plan has to be displayed at the district notice board. Albus was able to raise this during the training of Local Government Procurement Officers at the Civil Service College of Uganda where 14 procurement officers from the 10 new districts were trained in public procurement and contract management including open contracting.
The Ministry of Public Service through the Civil Service College of Uganda started a partnership with Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) to incorporate an Open Contracting Module in the Public Procurement and Contract Management Course for Public Servants. This comes through as one of the major milestones Uganda is taking in advancing open contracting in public procurement. The 14 procurement officers were thus the first cohort of public officers to be trained in the module for two days from 1st – 2nd October 2019 at the College based in Jinja district.
Having partnered with Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA) to redesign the Government Procurement Portal (GPP), AFIC realizes that there is need to increase disclosure levels on the portal and inculcating open contracting in the norm of public procurement of Uganda.
In the 2018/19 financial year, there were 356 Procurement Entities (PEs) registered; of these only 228 were registered on the GPP, and of these 150 PEs disclosed information on the GPP. And yet only 66% of PEs registered on the GPP disclosed data on three stages of a procurement cycle (planning, tender and award). AFIC thus undertook the process of developing the module to ensure that public officers understand and appreciate the value of open contracting, the legal framework governing it and the stakeholders involved.
“We want to ensure that open contracting becomes a norm in all public procurement processes,” said Gilbert Sendugwa, the Executive Director, AFIC.
The training on open contracting was handled by Gilbert Sendugwa; Elone Natumanya; the Senior Programme Officer; Open Contracting and Michael Chengkuru; the Open Data Specialist who took the team through the process of open contracting and what should be disclosed at each stage of procurement. They further trained the officers on the need to conduct public procurement with a high level of integrity and following all the ethical values. The procurement officers were further trained in the overall public procurement and contract management by the PPDA officials.
“We have high hopes that the procurement practitioners will be able to put in practice what they have learnt and promote transparency in public service in their localities,” Ronnie Kiwumulo Mbabaali, Programme Officer, Public Sector Governance at the Civil Service College noted.
And indeed, with this training, there are high hopes that the 14 new districts will be able to upload procurement data on the GPP and also disclose the information in other forms as required by the law.
“It has been a pleasure for me to be at the Civil Service College of Uganda because it has opened my eyes and I believe this will contribute positively to my performance as a member of the District Contracts Committee”, said one of the participants during the feedback session.
While closing off the training workshop, Ms. Savia Mugwanya the Commissioner in charge of the College appreciated the role of AFIC in championing open contracting in public procurement given it benefits in promoting transparency and accountability.
“We hope that you will be the champions of open contracting in your districts and impact other procurement practitioners,” she said.
So, public officers like Albus will no longer have to suffer answering why it is necessary to disclose information on public procurement but will be champions of open contracting in their respective districts