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Parliament questions delays in procurement of new EC offices

EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has questioned the Electoral Commission-EC on the reported breach of procurement procedures in the move to acquire new premises for its headquarters.

Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) earmarked the current EC premises at Jinja road for construction of the Jinja-Kampala Expressway Flyover as well as the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) projects. EC was expected to vacate the Jinja road premises by June 2021.

Media reports indicate that the electoral body now faces eviction after it overstayed the period that the Roads Authority gave to vacate the project area. Reports also indicate that the acquisition of new EC offices has been delayed due to vested interests among a section of Electoral Commission officials and external lobbying.

The matter came up this afternoon during a meeting between the Electoral Commission led by EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi and the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Commitee which is examining budget estimates for the next financial year 2022/2023.

EC Secretary Leonard Mulekwa said that the Commission is currently undertaking the procurement of new premises for its headquarters after four failed attempts since 2017. He says that although the appropriated Capital Development budget for this purpose is 60 billion Shillings, only 39.72 billion has been released.

But his explanation sparked off queries from MPs led by the Committee chairperson Robinah Rwakoojo, who raised concern about the delayed acquisition of the new home. Rwakoojo demanded answers about the progress so far made in acquiring new premises.

Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba, noted reports that under-hand methods are being used to flout the procurement process. Equally, the Bunyole East MP, Yusuf Mutembuli asked the EC officials whether they have a plan, in case they are evicted before acquiring new premises.

Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said that there is information that the Electoral Commission discarded the bidding process, something that has raised complaints from the bidders.

Electoral Commission first advertised for bids from suitable firms in 2016 to provide office space and at the second re-advertisement, Acacia Place Limited emerged as the best-evaluated bidder, a development that sparked off complaints from the other bidders who included Simbamanyo Estates Limited who then petitioned the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets-PPDA, and the procurement was then cancelled.

In his response to queries raised by MPs, Justice Byabakama said that the electoral body has followed the procurement processes keenly as laid down in the law and ruled out any under-hand methods.

“This process has been quite protracted. We have tried many processes that have not yielded results but one thing I want to assure this committee, the protracted nature of the process is not because of vested interest by members of the Commission or what is playing out that some business people are cutting deals with the Commission to sell us this House and so on. That’s not it,” said Byabakama.

He said that they are in the final stages of securing new premises to pave way for the Kampala Flyover project.

However, Ssemujju disagreed with the response saying that the key query was EC abandoning a bidding process and going for selective bidding. Byabakama insisted that whatever the Commission is doing is within the law pertaining to procurements and that they have been in consultation with PPDA at each stage of the process.

The EC Chairperson said that it is regrettable that they have had issues with their procurement process that has delayed their vacation of the current premises.

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