The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) has opened an audit into the recent importation of Makerere University graduation gowns from China.
Team Uniform Ltd, the sole provider of the patented Makerere graduation gowns, last week imported into the country about 7,000 gowns from China for the 70th graduation that kicked off this week on Tuesday.
The imported gowns were short of the over 13,000 gowns needed and the under-delivery sent the university into panic mode to seek emergency supplies from local tailors in Wandegeya and Kireka, Banda (near Kyambogo University) so as to fill the gap.
The importation of the gowns drew continent-wide criticism from many Africans who wondered why gowns had to be imported from abroad despite the presence of local tailors. Now Uthman Ssegawa, the acting PPDA executive director, told reporters in Kampala today that the gowns procurement contract was below Shs 1 billion which means that it should have gone to local suppliers.
“For supplies, any supply that is below Shs 1 billion should be to local providers that is the national providers and the resident providers. So the gowns fall under this category. If you’re buying a vehicle [it] falls under this category. For works, we reserved contract works below Shs 45 billion to local providers – those are the road works. For other works like construction, we reserved all contracts below Shs 10 billion recently. So on the issue of Makerere university gowns, these gowns are below Shs 1 billion so they should have been awarded to a provider with facilities in Uganda.” Ssegawa said.
The university vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe distanced the institution from the procurement crisis, saying where and how the supplier gets the gowns doesn’t matter so long as he delivers the desired quality and quantity.
Students had threatened to disrupt the four-day graduation ceremonies if all graduation gowns had not been delivered. And to avert the disruption, Nawangwe ordered his staff to procure the gowns at whatever price, saying the university was already receiving enough bad press.
Team Uniform signed the contract with Makerere in 2017 but recently claimed that the university had not yet cleared over Shs 300 million from last year’s graduation delivery and no down payments had been made for this year’s supplies.
Nawangwe said the contract indicates that the supplier had to have the capacity to use their own money and that payment would only be effected upon delivery and satisfaction of the university. Each student pays a mandatory Shs 98,000 for the gown, and for this year’s 13,509 graduands, it would translate into about Shs 1.3 billion. However, it is understood that the university uses part of this money to organise the graduation ceremonies.
Nawangwe made a public apology on Tuesday for the inconvenience caused and said the contract with Team Uniform was under review due to possible breach including sourcing for supplies from China and under delivery. Ssegawa said there are three local manufacturers in Uganda that would have made the gowns locally and supplied the university – Southern Nyanza (former Nytil), Fine Spinners, and Sigma Knitting.
He said the authority has asked for the file of the procurement of the gowns from the university and they expect to receive it by January 23, 2020, and the audit will be finished within three weeks.
“Specifically in relation to the gowns, PPDA has been in contact with Makerere University to further provide it with the procurement file. We understand that this procurement was signed in 2017 February that is before our guidelines. The PPDA allows that the contract can be amended. We anticipate that Makerere should have amended this contract to provide that the supplier who is contracted should buy supplies from Uganda. We’re undertaking a contract audit to find out what would have gone wrong with this particular procurement.” added Ssegawa.
If Makerere is found to have breached the rules, the issue will be forwarded to the university council for action, which could include terminating the contract and sourcing providers afresh.
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