Why PPDA Halted the Electoral Commission Procurement Tender

The sum up of the PPDA AND EC saga starts on the 19th March 2020,  when the Electoral Commission started the procurement for printing and supply of ballot papers and Declaration of Results Forms (DRF) for the forthcoming general elections for 2021 (Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections) at an estimated cost of UGX 77,611,089,200 divided into nine lots.

Later on, on the  28th May 2020, the Contracts Committee approved the bidding document, and the open International bidding procurement method and Evaluation Committee.

As the process states, on the  29th May 2020, the Entity advertised the bid notice for printing services for the Ballot Papers and Declaration of Results Forms for the General elections 2021 in the New Vision Newspaper with the deadline for bid submission on 13th July 2020.

On 13th July 2020, the Entity received and opened bids from 22 bidders. There were ten being local bidders which submitted bid as single entities or joint ventures.

On 30th September 2020, the Authority received a complaint from Uganda Printers and Packaging Association alleging the following irregularities in the procurement for printing and supply of ballot papers for the 2021 general elections by the Electoral Commission.

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) on the 26th October 2020 directed the Electoral Commission (EC) to re-evaluate bids for Picfare Industries Ltd, Graphics Systems Ltd, Inline Print Services and New Vision-Hi-tech JV, which were controversially sidelined in the sh185b tender award that was given to foreign firms.

In their complaint, UPPA stated that the evaluation was mishandled in a number of areas which included local firms such as Graphic Systems, Picfare Industries, Inline Print Services, Multiplexand Wave Media. They said the firms were unfairly eliminated on grounds of lack of evidence of successful completion of three contracts of similar nature and complexity

The EC last month awarded a number of tenders to foreign firms that included Tall Security Printers (UK), Uniprint (South Africa), United Printing and Publishing (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Adare Sec Ltd (UK) and AlGhurair Printing and Publishing Company (Dubai).

The PPDA noted that in accordance with section 8 (1) of the PPDA Act, they instituted an investigation into the issue of evaluation for the requirement of successful completion of three contracts of similar nature and complexity.

Upon investigations PPDA confirmed that the EC officials inflated the cost of printing ballot papers and that the prices quoted at the opening of the bids for Adare Sec for Lot 7 were different from those awarded.

Local firms such as Graphic Systems (U) Ltd, Picfare Industries Ltd, Inline Print Services, Multiplex Ltd and Wave Media Ltd were unfairly eliminated for lack of evidence of successful completion of three contracts of similar nature and complexity yet copies of local purchase orders for printing and supply of ballot papers and other relevant assignments were attached.

New Vision – Hi-tech Graphic Limited JV was eliminated for failure to state a delivery schedule in its bid to which the Entity could have sought a clarification.

The best evaluated foreign bidders were Tall Security Printers (UK), Uniprint (South Africa), United Printing and Publishing (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Adare Sec Ltd (UK) and Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company (Dubai). Last month, the local printing companies under the Uganda Printers Association (UPA) protested the EC decision to select three foreign firms to share a tender of printing ballot papers for the 2021 General Election at Shs200b.

The law still provides a window for the aggrieved firms to petition the PPDA Appeals Tribunal which is the final decision making body in the procurement process. the EC has to halt the procurement process until PDDA pronounces itself on the matter before it. More than 187 million ballot papers are supposed to be printed by different companies in time for the presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections.

The Administrative Compliance criteria provides that;

 Successful completion of 3 contracts of similar nature and complexity in Africa. The bidder is required to provide detailed addressees of the clients and contact person who could be approached in case of a need to confirm the information given in this respect. And that the Bidder must have printed at least 15 Million ballot papers for a similar complexity election”

The local companies claim the EC decision disregarded the government policy of Buy Uganda, Build Uganda (BUBU), which promotes locally manufactured goods. In that the bid prices of local printers (providers) were cheaper than those of the foreign bidders. The bid prices at bid opening differed from the awarded prices indicated in the notice of best evaluated bidder. All the contracts were awarded to foreign firms despite the presence of verified local printing capacity and in breach of the BUBU Policy and the PPDA Reservation Guidelines of 2018.