BY PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA, Uganda |SHIFTMEDIA| There is an increase in Fair Business Practices between Government and the Private Sector in public infrastructure project delivery processes, a midterm review report released by CoST Uganda Chapter and Ministry of Works and Transport has revealed.
Three years ago issues of public disclosure on infrastructure procurement were a hurdle to come by, but following the intervention of CoST Uganda Chapter, PPDA’s responsiveness and the Champion Ministry of Works and Transport, new revelations indicate the sector is destined to a major change regarding disclosure.
Releasing the key project insights in the last six months of the project: “Promoting Fair Business Practices between Government and the Private Sector in public infrastructure projects delivery processes at the Hilton Garden Hotel in Kampala, Gilbert Sendugwa the Executive Director at the Africa Freedom of Information Center (AFIC) said Fair business is very important for development since it also enhances transparency and creates room for fairness and good decision making.
“Over time we observed that transparency has been low. This program is perceived to create fair business. Cost and time overruns are also common, “ Gilbert shared with the stakeholders.
He said the purpose of the engagement was to provide a platform for project target stakeholders to reflect on the project interventions with major discussions on results, challenges, and lessons learned during the first six months of implementation.
The participants were drawn from academia, Ministry of Finance, and PPDA officials as well as the private sector and the media who discussed and generated issues to further enhance performance, sustainability, and scaling up.
The one year program is being supported by the DFID’s Business Integrity Initiative. The theme of the meeting was Reflection, Learning, and Lessons from the Business Integrity Initiative Intervention.
According to Olive Kabatwairwe, the CoST Uganda Programme Coordinator, the project goal is to promote
fair business practices between Government and the Private sector and the strategic objectives include:
- To increase disclosed data to 60 points as per the IDS Standards.
- To increasing competition in doing business with government agencies.
- To strengthen transparency in procurement processes of infrastructure projects.
“Through the ongoing Assurance process on 10 projects under this intervention, We have observed an improvement un proactive disclosure. Entities are gradually appreciating disclosure and publication of information across various platforms, offcourse we call for full disclosure as per the CoST IDS,,” said Kabatwairwe. She said the other challenge remains on the need to address the inconsistencies in disclosed data and frequency of disclosure.
“We are also seeing an increase in PEs recommending projects for assurance, more disclosure is a sign of transparency,” said Ms. Olive Kabatwairwe, the Programme Coordinator.
She said that the training of the journalists in infrastructure reporting had changed the way media reports on projects and contracts issues. “We have observed that from the training, journalists are now so keen on reporting on infrastructure procurement-related issues,” she said.
She however noted that some of the challenges the interventions has observed include: bureaucracies in decision making processes on disclosure of information, and slow action to commitments and recommenndations as well as the impact of COVID 19 where the project lost three months.
The Director Corporate Affairs at the Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Edwin Muhumuza hailed CoST Uganda saying the report was an indicator of some improvement on the Assurance process addressing the stakeholder concerns on the number of projects assured and the scope of the CoST interventions.
Muhumuza appreciated the initiative for having moved to 19 projects in the 4th Assrurance process raising `3 in the 3rd Assurance process and the 19 were all from high spending entities.
Michael Chengkuru the AFIC Open Data Specialist noted that in the past three years what has been disclosed in the Government portal is gradually increasing.
Presenting statistics on “Trends in Disclosure of procurement Data” Chengkuru said: “Even at individual levels, disclosure is increasing and this tells us something.” He said Works and transport accounted for 75% of the disclosure, but expressed concerns that the sector was not disclosing data at certain periods of the year. He said overall, the key finding that struck stakeholders at this learning event was the trend in disclosure that tends to raise towards end of quarters and the financial year, and this is very high with the Works and Transport sector.
Dr. Levi Kabagambe Bategeka Board Member PPDA and procurement expert urged journalists to always seek for information from the Accounting officers who are authorized to release information.
He also noted that the worry on disclosure will soon be addressed if the E-GP and its requirements work out.
“A lot will be happening but not physically. To get any information put it formerly to the accounting officer then he will be the one to task his technical team to explain because some information in government is so tricky,” he said.
The Commissioner Procurement, Policy, and Management Department in the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development David Kiyingi Nyimbwa said districts should not be castigated for returning un utilised funds back to the treasury. “The delays in the utilization of the funds is not on PPDA nor Ministry of Finance but on the law in place. Probably the entities should have accounts to see how best to keep this monies to avoid delays in project deliveries,” said Kiyingi, Adding: “We need to dialogue with economists and accountants to see how best to handle the law that demands that funds are used as stipulated.
If districts don’t follow the law the auditors will say they didn’t follow the law,” he said.
Kiyingi observed that the future is very bright in terms of disclosure if we commit to the laid down procedures.