By Patrick Kagenda
Repair of the government wagon ferry, MV Pamba, is set to start following the lifting of a ban on direct procurement of consultants for the job by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA).
The August lifting of the ban on MV Pamba repairs will be music to the business community because on August 18, a Tanzanian registered vessel MV Azza sunk near Bukasa Islands further constraining the movement of Ugandan destined cargo on Lake Victoria.
MV Azza sunk exactly three years and one month after MV Kabalega, a Ugandan owned vessel sunk, with huge amounts of cargo following a collision with a sister vessel, MV Pamba on Lake Victoria.
The PDDA Executive Director, Edgar Agaba told The Independent that in August 2008 his organization lifted the ban after clearing the Privatisation Unit of any wrong in the deal.
‘We praised the PU for acting lawfully,’he said in an interview, ‘he halting process has been lifted and procurement of the consultancy services for the repair of URC wagon ferry MV Pamba will proceed.
Mr Agaba was reacting to an earlier interview on August 22 about developments on the Southern Route (central Corridor), in which the Minister of State for Works, Mr Byabagambi blamed the PPDA for not giving priority to the renovation of the wagon ferry yet the issue was urgent.
‘The minister is wrong to blame us, he is ignorant of our work,’ said Agaba.
Despite Mr Agaba’s robust, this was not the first time PPDA was being accused of being bureaucratic. The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Managing Director, Mr Chandi Jamwa, recently said he bypassed PPDA requirements to buy a controversial piece of land because PPDA is bureaucratic. Jamwa said PPDA is in great need of reform. Bank of Uganda has also resisted PPDA attempts to oversee the government banker ‘s procurement methods.
But Agaba told The Independent: ‘PPDA does not handle procurement but handles complaints.
On the case of MV Pamba repairs he said: ‘The delay in the procurement of the consultancy services for the repair of URC wagon ferries was a result of a complaint lodged by Mr. Wamala Musoke of Kampala Maritime Services Ltd over the use of restricted international bidding method by the Privatization Unit in the procurement of consultancy services to repair URC wagon ferries’. Agaba said the PU is to blame for all the delays and not PPDA.
On April 4 2008 Privatization Unit wrote to Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority requesting approval to deviate from the normal competitive procurement method in the selection of consultancy services for the repair and supervision of repairs of Uganda Railways Corporation wagon ferry Mv Pamba. Privatization unit based their request on two issues; the emergency situation brought by the Kenyan crisis and the urgency of having the repairs completed by October 2008, so as to open an alternative route, and because securing a consultant through competitive biding takes a longer period (147 days) as opposed to 30 days under direct procurement.
In a letter of request PU forwarded M/s Ingo Schluter Marine Consultants GmbH of Germany who had supervised the construction of MV Kalangala on behalf of the government of Uganda. A list of projects handled by the firm was forwarded as basis for the firm to qualify for the job. According to a report released by the PPDA contracts committee, the process of selection used was the single source selection. The job was to cost $100,000. This amount had been agreed upon in the concession agreement with RVR.
PPDA gave a go ahead for the procurement of the consultancy but on three conditions; restricted international bidding method will reduce bidding period to 15 days; use Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication pre- qualified list of providers; reduced period of 5 working days for the notice of the best evaluated bidder.
The letter was signed by Edgar Agaba, executive director of PPDA and copied to Chairman of Contracts Committee and the Head of Procurement and Disposal Unit.
On May 15 M/s Kampala Maritime Freight Services wrote to Minister of State for Privatization alleging that Mr. O.N. Wamala Musoke and other local consultants were not invited to submit proposals in the procurement of consultancy services to repair the URC wagon ferry under the restricted international bidding method and URC nominating Mr. Charles Kateeba while Min of Works and Transport nominated Mr. Hebert Mutyaba both mechanical engineers to be part of the evaluation team.
On May 30, PPDA in response to M/s Kampala Maritime Freight Services Ltd complaint, instituted an investigation, halted any further action on the procurement and requested for the procurement action file on the matter.
In March, Minister Byabagambi told The Independent that the government had secured Shs 3 billion for the renovation and upgrading MV Pamba and planed to buy a new vessel at Shs 40 billion. The money for the renovation was a loan from the International Development Association through the East African Trade and Transport Facility Project (EATTFP). The Minister promised that, the renovated vessel would be on the water by July 2008. This was in response to the opening of the southern route (central corridor) after Kenya election civil unrest almost ground the Ugandan economy to a halt.
Hopefully, repair of MV Pamba will now be expedited following the PPDA lifting of the ban.