Government Welcomes AFIC’s Open Contracting Recommendations
Mr. David Kiyingi, Commissioner responsible for Procurement Policy in Uganda’s Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development has commended Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) for ground breaking findings which when implemented will go a long way in improving public procurement outcomes in Uganda. He observed that it is illegal and represents diversion of funds since such contracts were never approved as required by law. The commendation was made during the launch of the “Report of Monitoring of Contracts in Health and Education Sectors in Uganda” held on December 5, 2017 in Kampala, Uganda. The report was produced by AFIC under the auspices of the enhancing of value for money in public contracts projects implemented in partnership with Transparency International and the Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition funded by the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA).
Presenting the results, Gilbert Sendugwa, AFIC’s Executive Director revealed that 4 in every 5 contracts accessed were not reflected in respective procurement plans, the difference between estimated price and actual contract price was within the margin of 1%- a high possibility of collusion, contract price is determined by source of funding rather than scope and design of facilities. AFIC also found a unique case where two unrelated companies share office and postal address and originated documents on the same date which were also received by the Government on similar dates-a high possibility of fraud and falsification of documents.
Commenting further, Mr. Kiyingi observed that AFIC’s report was important because it has brought another view, further noting, “…reports we have been receiving on contracts have been showing a very positive picture. These findings will help us on where to pay more attention”
He promised that Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic will study the report and implement its recommendations. He also suggested that the Ministry would consider inviting AFIC to present its findings to the Ministry’s Top Management.
At the same event, AFIC released another study “The Assessment of Accountability Structures in Uganda” was launched. The study was carried out by AFIC in collaboration with Citizen Watch It (CEWIT) with support from Oxfam under the Finance for Development Project (F4D). The study finds that while accountability structures exists at national and lower levels, performance of public services and contracts in Uganda was weak in part because oversight measures are dysfunctional, havent been trained on their mandate and lack access to key information on programmes being implemented by government.
Commenting on the findings, Mr. David Kiyingi observed that 12% allocated by PPDA to performance monitoring of contracts should be reviewed given that this is the agency’s core mandate. Other participants called on accountability institutions especially the Inspectorate of Government to work cultivate and deepen collaboration with civil society organisations which have the necessary reach and capacity to monitor and provide feedback on performance of services.
It was observed that there is a strong relationship between poor planning and execution of contracts as revealed in the contracts monitoring report and the one assessment of accountability structures. Participants strong recommended the need to strengthen citizens’ access to information and participation in public affairs. Participants also endorsed recommendations regarding capacity strengthening of oversight structures. They welcomed advice from Ministry of Finance that where access to signed becomes a challenge the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance to be approached.
The results of the two studies were welcomed and discussed by over sixty participants from key agencies such as Office of the Auditor General, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority, the Inspectorate of Government, Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority, civil society leaders and the Delegation of European Union in Uganda.
Can Aaron Mwesigye, a director in the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity in the Office of the President commended AFIC for the two reports and observed that recommendations will go a long way in helping to realise Government’s Vision 2040. He said that the work of AFIC and Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition is important for Government’s District Integrity Promotion Fora and invited suggested that a memorandum of understanding should be signed with the Directorate to enhance close collaboration.
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