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Local firms getting less from supplying Digital Technology Systems

The study by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) attributed this finding to lack of technical expertise and small financial muscle to supply the systems. The study investigated the procurement and deployment of (DTS) in Liberia, Uganda and Nigeria.

The main DTSs Uganda has invested in include biometric machines, biometric voter verification kits, CCTV cameras and facial recognition systems among others.

According to the study findings, 17 DTS contracts were awarded in the period between Financial 2015/16-2020/21, out of which only 2 (12%) were for consultancy services while the majority were awarded for the supply and delivery of goods and services. In terms of numbers, local companies were awarded more contracts but fetched less monetary value as compared to deals awarded to foreign companies.

“Local firms get a lot of contracts to supply DTS to the Government but they generate less value,” said the AFIC Executive Director, Gilbert Sendugwa.

“Whereas up to 71% of the contracts were awarded to local firms, these contracts mainly involved the delivery of goods, with a contract value of about sh2.8b compared to 29% of the contracts which went to foreign companies but whose contract value was sh72.6b,” read part of the study report.

Procurement transparency lacking.

The study report shows that procurement details of DTS are not in the public domain, despite their funding being fetched largely from public funds.

“Public procurement in Africa is characterized by low information disclosure, lack of transparency, inflated pricing, inefficiency and poor use of competitive bidding in procurement processes.”

Gilbert Sendugwa explained that low transparency on procurement of DTS services by the Government has led to low value local firms benefit from supplying to the Government.

“If you look at transparency, very few local companies get information on procurement plans for several MDAs. Less information makes the firms miss participation, but there’s also a challenge of low capacity of local firms to supply DTS,” he noted.

He added: “When you go to the electronic government procurement portal, there’s no information on procurement plans for DTS and this has hindered local companies from benefiting much. I think the Government must ensure timely release of information on procurement plans if they are to boost meaningful participation of local firms.”

Siraj Magara, an economist and policy analyst said there’s no supportive law to support local firms to benefit immensely from the Government’s procurement of DTS.

He said that even the Local Content Bill, that local players were banking on hasn’t been assented to by the President.

“So, for now, it remains at the discretion of those in authority to give DTS procurement deals to local firms because there’s no supportive law. Local firms are also getting less valuable DTS deals because most of them haven’t embraced digitalisation, yet most procurement plans are displayed on the e-Government procurement portal. As a result, most of them miss out on these big procurement deals,” he said.

Institutions using DTS in Uganda

According to the study, Uganda Police tops the list of agencies using DTS at 40%, followed by National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) (38%), Electoral Commission (EC) (33%), Ministry of Science and Technology (26%) and Ministry of Internal Affairs (25%).

Originally Published by: Wilson Manishimwe.

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