It has now emerged that corruption in the procurement process is to blame for the shoddy work especially in constructions sector in Lira district.
On Tuesday, directors of some of the construction companies accused Lira district officials of asking them for bribes whenever they respond to contract adverts by way of bidding.
This was during a dialogue at Good News Hotel Lira organized by Transparency International Uganda – a civil society organization operating with special interest in education, health, good governance and the fight against corruption.
“I am going to be open here, how can you execute an excellent contract yet these people who award contracts at the district are always demanding for kickbacks (bribes),” one of the directors of a construction company remarked.
According to the contractor whom this contemporary online newspaper is not able to name, they are always demanded to remit sometimes up to 30% of the total contract price in bribes.
He says this act has left them with little money which is not commensurate to the magnitude of the work to be done.
Transparency International Uganda is currently running a project dubbed ‘Open Contracting For Health’ which according to Brenda Ireo, its project officer, is aimed at fostering transparency and accountability in the procurement process in the health sector as well as value for money for the work done.
Tuesday’s meeting brought together Lira district officials, the private sector, media and contractors with the aim of discussing challenges in the procurement processes and forging away forward on how such challenges could be mitigated in the near future.
Among other issues raised by the contractors is conflict of interest and influence peddling by politicians and technocrats.
“How possible is it that year in and year out you find that only one company is being awarded a contract all the time?” another contractor voiced his concern during that dialogue.
Amach market was cited as one area where the district has vested all her interest.
Lira district LC5 Vice chairperson, George Okello Ayo, senior procurement officer, Patrick Ebil and the deputy speaker, Martin Okite were in attendance and put to defend the contractors’ issues.
In response, Okello Ayo said he is not aware of any politician at the district who influences the contract award committee to give contracts to some companies.
“I am sure some of you are using our names when we are unaware, you go and say the chairman has directed that you give me this contract when it’s actually a lie,” Okello Ayo remarked.
He however admitted to have heard similar complaints before but says every time they ask the contractors to mention names they shy away.
“Some mistakes were made in the past; the gate at the perimeter wall of the district which collapsed and we ensured it was redone,” Ayo added.
Another shoddy work was cited at Agali primary school and according to Okello Ayo; the contractor has been tasked to correct flaws on the classroom block at the school
On his part, Patrick Ebil, the senior procurement officer first took the contractors through the entire contract process from advertisement to the time of awarding the contract.
He told them that they have a transparent process because the contract evaluation committee comprises of competent people with tested integrity.
He however, also faulted some contractors for lacking integrity, due diligence and the will to do good work.
“Some of you do shoddy work because when we advance to you payments, you start buying bicycles, vehicles and marrying a second wife, and when the money has gone to waste you even abandon the site,” Ebil ‘kicked’ back.
He also allowed some of their suggestions like constantly engaging the contractors in dialogue meetings once contracts are advertised to keep them up-to-date with relevant information.
According to Ebil, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act of 2003 is also in the process of being a mended to harmonize the duration for contractors to lodge complaints whenever they are dissatisfied with a contract award, among others.