Participation of Nebbi District Local Government in contract monitoring enhances value for money at Atego Seed School.

AFIC conducted the second contracts monitoring process follows the first one that accessed contracts in Kabale, Kanungu, Ntungamo, Mbarara, Pakwach, and Nebbi districts for the FY 2018/19. The process was aimed at assessing the implementation of the recommendations and commitments made by the stakeholders of various PDEs from the first contract monitoring exercise; determining the extent to which public contract information was disclosed; determining the level of citizens’ participation in public contracts, and providing the government with feedback and share recommendations to improve contract performance in project districts.

The Problem

 All centrally procured projects were not executed within the expected project time frames. The Contractor of both Atego and Alwi Seed Secondary Schools in Nebbi and Pakwach district respectively were projected not to be able to complete the contract execution within the contracted time of 12 months. The contractor constructing the Alwi and Atego Seed Schools in Pakwach and Nebbi district respectively were still at the foundation stage ten (10) months into project execution, by the time of AFIC contract monitoring in October 2020. Workers at Alwi construction site indicated that they had spent 32 days on-site with no work due to lack of construction materials. At Alwi Seed School, the foundation of the administration block was yet to be excavated. The same contractor was contracted to execute other three projects in three districts (Zombo, Nebbi, and Pakwach).

“According to the project documents, the contract execution of Atego seed school should be in its final stages, but some blocks are still at the foundation stage and others the excavations have not been two months to the end of the contract execution.” Nebbi District Information Officer stated.

Implementation of both contracts in Nebbi and Pakwach was not at the expected stage barely three months to end of the contract period as work was still at the foundation stage. In Pakwach, contractors delayed picking agreements affecting the commencement of the approved projects. For example, the construction of Ley Primary School in Alwi Sub-county that should have started in November 2019 was signed on February 10, 2020. This situation left boys in the school resorting to using the bush to ease themselves or risking their lives by using a nearly collapsing/dilapidated latrine.

There were all reasons for the community to celebrate what would be later called the settling dust. The story of Atego Seed school dates back in November 2019, when AFIC and UCMC started monitoring construction works at Atego—in contrast, presenting the findings of a monitoring report for selected public contracts. The public outcry was exhibited through the comments of the district leadership.

The RDC, the district councilors had noted that the construction of Atego was “dusty” given the number of community complaints about limited information on the project, limited participation and involvement, project delay and the wide gap between Nebbi District Local Government and the contractor. Being a hybrid contract there was a lot of laxity by the district leadership to intervene in the monitoring and supervision of works because of envisaged fear of collusion between the District Local Government and the Central Government.

The Intervention

Upon request from the RDC, AFIC embarked on a contract monitoring process of Atego Seed School in 2020 which revealed an important finding that later caused many changes.

AFIC raised the issues of quality of clay bricks used at the site. Basing on AFIC’s recommendation, the district engineer collected brick samples for testing in Arua, which confirmed the bricks were substandard. Things did not remain the same because the district leadership intensified the monitoring of the site and regular engagement with the contractor.

The contractor was asked to demolish a two-classroom block and reconstruct the walls using quality concrete blocks. With the change in the blocks used for construction, it was evident that the community is now getting value for money.

“The district leadership stopped the contractor from using unburnt bricks, forced the contractors to test the blocks and brick before using then on the site.” “During the district supervision exercise, the contractor identified access to water as a major factor causing delays in the contract execution. The contractor rejected the water bowser provided by the Nebbi district to mitigate the water challenge identified.” Nebbi District Vice-Chairperson stated.

For the first time, Dorcus Akech got the opportunity to ask questions regarding service delivery in her community in Atego Sub-County, Nebbi district. This was at a community dialogue held at the school on 11th December 2020, where local leaders were sharing updates on the completion of Atego Seed School. Citizens in Atego Sub-County in Nebbi district appreciate government’s efforts toward service delivery, they feel betrayed by their area Members of Parliament who only come to request for votes after 5 years. While in Alwi Sub County, during a public dialogue, in Pakwach district, citizens were amazed at how much they can use access to information as a tool to demand for transparency and accountability from their leaders and government. Indeed, access to information is a gateway to citizens’ participation in public procurement processes which ultimately leads to enhanced value for money

AFIC recommends that:

  • Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of ICT and National Guidance should coordinate to ensure that all the district local governments are provided with internet to ease information disclosure through the district website, GPP and other existing online portals.
  • PPDA should put sanctions for entities that fail to disclose information proactively and rewards for entities that consistently disclose information on GPP that would motivate entities to increase public procurement information disclosure.
  • PDEs should carry out thorough Due Diligence (DD) on potential contractors to fully assess their capacity to manage projects that are resource heavy in terms of human resource and finances.
  • PDEs should increase their supervisory role on the contracts to provide hands-on and on spot technical assistance to contractors to address issues arising such as no compliance with contract provision, delayed execution and non-payment of workers.
  • The Ministry of Education and Sports should reconsider its contracting mechanisms/processes where companies contracted for more than one contract fail to deliver on the contracts signed.
  • There is a need for the district officials and other different stakeholders to intervene through monitoring and supervision to compel the contractors to use the appropriate materials as stated in the project document. The intervention of various stakeholders through guidance will not only provide corrective measures to the project but will ensure value for money in the projects.
  • The district leadership and other key stakeholders should interest themselves to step up the monitoring and supervision of government projects.
  • Means of promoting and protecting children from labor exploitation and provide precautions against the transmission of AIDS to site workers and the community should be integrated in the sensitization component of the contractors to mitigate child labor practices on construction sites and precautionary messages on the spread of HIV AIDS.
  • Labor Officers and Community Development Workers should be part of construction monitoring teams to assess occupational and safety standards of workers and any other labor exploitation issues which should be dealt with immediately in line with the law as and when they arise.

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