By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) has launched an electronic register of providers of procured materials to the government.
PPDA Executive Director Edgar Agaba said the e-register will provide details to enable the government to identify local companies and providers who are well equipped to handle government procurements.
He said it will not take away open bidding but is designed to speed up the process of awarding tenders.
Over 1,000 companies are expected to register in one year.
Launched on Nov.25, the online database of company profiles aims to increase transparency in the procurement process, increase the providers’ visibility locally and internationally, and provide them access to more business.
Finance Minister Syda Bbumba said the providers’ database will enable the government to check the providers’ physical and financial capabilities and their past performance.
“This will enable the government to block further tendering by service providers who have been found to be dishonest,” she said. It will also enable procuring and disposing entities to invite bids from proven service providers to undertake small jobs that do not warrant calling for open tenders.
She said most local companies lack the capacity to compete successfully for government tenders and advised them team up with others to be more competitive.
A Local service provider, Zzimwe Construction Ltd General Manager Paul Kassaga said the innovation is advantageous but insisted that even with the e-register emphasis should be on the qualification of the provider.
“The criteria for qualifying should be in such a way it will eliminate incidences of quack and briefcase companies. It is not a matter of being on the register but a company’s credibility should be borne in mind,” Kasagga said.
However, the Anti-corruption Coalition Uganda coordinator, Jasper Tumuhimbise, said much as the initiative is good, “corruption does not take place at the providers’ level. It takes place at the area of bills of quantity” while e-register will only show winners of the tender.
Under the arrangement, first time registration will cost between Shs 200,000 and Shs 250,000 and annual renewal will be Shs 100,000.
The register is meant to ensure that data on providers is available to all actors in the procurement process and to be a basis for monitoring their performance and compliance with sector regulations.
It is part of reforms introduced since 1999 to ensure transparency, fight corruption, and ensure fairness in the bidding process.
Such projects are often created to check collusion between tenderers and use internet technology to assess status and capabilities of providers.
PPDA is a beneficiary of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US foreign aid agency, funding the Anti-Corruption Threshold Country Plan Project.
The US Deputy Mission Director, John Winfield said although the register will not cure all challenges facing procurement process in the country, it will be a platform for better procurement practices. He advised PPDA to use the register for all to access information to make procurement less vulnerable to fraud.
“It will serve as a level playground for curbing malpractices and corruption in the procurement process,” he said.
PPDA aims to gradually introduce e-commerce.
The e-register got technical support from the US government’s USAID project.