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Queries as firm declared insolvent in Italy gets nod for Shs 500 billion Busega-Mpigi Expressway tender

The AfDB Uganda office has granted a no objection to C.M.C Ravenna, a firm declared insolvent in Italy, to construct the Busega-Mpigi Expressway (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Queries are being raised after the African Development Bank, Uganda Office decided to give a no objection to C.M.C Ravenna, a firm declared insolvent in Italy to construct the Busega-Mpigi Expressway.

C.M.C Ravenna is in a joint venture with Advent Construction Ltd from Tanzania for the now controversial Shs 500 billion road tender, but the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) had earlier issued a damning dossier on the procurement process, raising a red flag over the tender.

PPDA is responsible for regulation and supervision of procurement and disposal of government-owned property and other assets.

According to the report dated November 8th, 2018 and addressed to the Inspector General of Government (IGG), UNRA and African Development Bank (ADB-the financiers of the project), the procurement body accuses UNRA of trying to award the Shs 500bn expressway contract to a fraudulent company.

The company (best-evaluated bidder) C.M.C Ravenna, was a few weeks ago declared insolvent by an Italian jury seating in Ravenna while it’s Tanzanian partner Advent Construction Ltd has no background in Road construction but mainly specialises in buildings.

African Development Bank, Uganda office has given a no objection, sparking fresh controversy

According to the PPDA report signed by acting executive director Benson Turamye, there are several inconstancies in the procurement process with disregard for best practices and principles of procurement, all intended to favour particular bidders.

The road construction project covers a total of 63kms between Busega on the outskirts of Kampala and Mpigi along the Kampala – Masaka highway.

The procurement process has been on for more than 2yrs, with the procedure heavily delayed by whistle-blowing and corruption allegations.

PPDA acting Executive Director, Ben Tumuhairwe and UNRA ED Ms Allen Kagina. Controversy stinks as African Development Bank – Uganda country office, grants an insolvent firm a no objection.(FILE PHOTO)

BACKGROUND TO THE PROCUREMENT DEBACLE

The contract was first awarded to a Chinese firm China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway 19th Bureau Group Co Ltd (CCECC &; CRGC) last year.

However, the when the above company was submitted to the bank, the bank raised a few queries which it wanted UNRA to answer.

Instead of answering the queries, UNRA nullified the bid and went into another evaluation.

In the second evaluation, another Chinese firm Ghazouba Group Co. Ltd emerged as the best-evaluated bidder.

However, the company dropped out on realising it had underquoted the works and that there was a likelihood of failing to complete the project.

Since CMS-ADVENT joint venture was tactically placed in the second position on the list submitted by UNRA to the bank, it would automatically take the deal.

It is against this background that UNRA submitted CMS-Advert JV as the best evaluated despite protests from PPDA over material deviation and several inconstancies in the submitted bid document.

PPDA had earlier raised a red flag on the procurement process but it was downplayed the UNRA Executive Director Allen Kagina in a letter dated September 7th 2018.

“The civil works for the Busega-Mpigi Expressway are financed through a loan from the African Development Bank (ADB).

‘The procurement has been characterized by an unusual number of whistle-blowers and complaints. I brought this to the attention of the honourable minister of works and Transport through a letter dated 4th July 2018, which was copied to you.

Bids for this procurement were received in August 2017 but the process has not been finalized. The main reason for the delay in concluding this procurement has been the need to investigate and address issues raised by the whistle-blowers.

“The bid evaluation report was approved by the UNRA contracts committee and has been submitted to the ADB for a No objection prior to displaying of the Notice of the Best Evaluated Bidder. In light of the above, we are requesting that your review of the procurement process be stalled until we get a response from the Bank such that your view also takes into account the Bank’s position and guidance on the matter.”

BANK OBJECTIONS

However, the bank objected to Ms Allen Kagina’s request for a no objection and instructed the PPDA and IGG to review the entire procurement process and asked UNRA to avail it with the outcome of the review.

“As indicated in our earlier letter dated September 24th, please share with us the outcome of the review by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority of the issues brought to their attention by the whistle-blower related to this project,” an official of the bank wrote to Ms Kagina in an email titled Review of the bid evaluation report for the Busega-Mpigi Expressway Project.

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