The Management of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has been put on the spot over procurement of airport furniture and other supplies worth shs243 million.
Sam Wonekha, the General Manager for regional airports at UCCA, told a committee of Parliament that the procurement was for lounge seats and bagged trolleys for Arua Airport new terminal building. The supply was for 60 seats configured into 4-seater and 5-seaters, as well as 40 baggage trolleys.
The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises led by Chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, carried an oversight visit to Arua Airport, where they raised concerns about the inconsistencies with the procurements.
Committee Member Hon. Bashir Mbazira asked why UCAA engaged procurement processes with M/s Eclipse/Edilsoil JVC Ltd to supply the airport lounge seats and trolleys and yet the company had been embroiled in several court matters.
“We would like to look at the procurement documentation to ascertain whether you followed the PPDA process. We want to know how you arrived at offering the tender to this company,” Mbazira asked.
Ssenyonyi tasked UCAA management to explain why the airport lounge seats and baggage trolleys were procured at such costly prices.
“I did some quick maths here and got puzzled. The total of 60 seats and 40 baggage trolleys cost shs243.3 million. If we imagine each were the same cost, dividing this money by 100 means each cost shs2.4 million. What is so special about them that they cost this much money,” asked Ssenyonyi.
Wonekha told the MPs that the seats were procured at the costs indicated because of their quality and durability, particularly that it is the type of seat used in international airports across the world.
He added that taxes and clearance charges also added onto the cost of acquiring the airport furniture in question.
“This was a competitive bidding process and that firm was selected to supply the furniture. This furniture stands the test of time; so we went in for high quality furniture, which is expensive,” he said.
UCAA Director General, Fred Bamwesigye, told the MPs that a procurement of this nature could not go undocumented and would he made available to the Committee.
The Committee Deputy Chairperson, Hon. Lucy Akello, asked UCAA leadership to explain how they are managing testing for Covid-19 for departing and arriving travellers.
“The health port is there at the arrivals but what happens at the departures? Do you have a testing facility for Covid-19 just like at Entebbe or is it yet to roll out?” Akello asked.
Cornelius Mahmood, the Port Health hotel in-charge at Arua Airport told the Committee that Government had given the role of COVID testing to MBN Laboratories, which has been picking travellers’ samples for testing, specifically from Category II Covid countries.
“As the Port Health in-charge and a team from Arua Airport, we are going to start testing just like at Entebbe effective 5 November,” said Mahmood.
Wonekha further informed the Committee that the major constraint to growth of the Airport was lack of funding to implement capital projects, noting that Government has not yet provided shs529 billion to implement its development plans.
“The releases, though inadequate, should be timely; because of these delays, many of our planned activities do not progress and we never complete projects on time since we cannot meet our financial obligations to providers,” he said.
He also cited other challenges such vandalism and destruction of airport property by the local population, which he says has been rampant in Arua, Moroto, Soroti, Tororo and Jinja.
The MPs commended UCAA on successful works done on the terminal building at Arua Airport that cost shs2.35 billion, as well as construction of an apron and associated taxiways that cost shs7.36 billion.
UCAA FULL RESPONSE TO SSENYONYI’S CLAIMS
CLARIFICATION ON ISSUES RAISED IN DISCUSSIONS WITH PARLIAMENT’S COMMITTEE ON STATUTORY AUTHORITIES AND STATE ENTERPRISESES IN ARUA ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021
Our attention has been drawn to issues that seem to have been blown out of proportion and context on social media arising out of an interaction between Members of the Public Accounts Committee of the Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) in Arua, and wish to clarify as follows;
In reference to the cost for the on-going construction of a perimeter fence around Aura Airfield at Uganda shillings 687,928,079 by M/s Lodina Investment Limited, it is important to note that the contract was awarded through a competitive open domestic bidding process in line with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Act. The perimeter fence is a chain-link mounted on concrete poles (with long service life in mind), and will cover a total length of approximately seven (7) kilometers around the airfield, on completion.
The contract price also included relocation of a community access road and demolishing structures from the land recently acquired from the community. Given the magnitude of the task, previous Engineering estimates had projected the cost to be in the range of 750 million shillings, but following the competitive process that the procurement was subjected to, the best evaluated bidder was at 687.9 million shillings only. The cost is very competitive and not exorbitant as may have been insinuated in certain circles.
It is also important for the public to note that the perimeter fence for Arua Airfield is a chain link (not wall fence), just like that of Entebbe International Airport. The chain-link fence is preferred for safety reasons so that in case of an aircraft accident in the course of landing or take-off, the damage to the aircraft is reduced from what the case would be in case of crashing into a wall fence. This is a safety consideration.
The other issue misrepresented in the public domain was the procurement of Airport Terminal lounge seats and baggage trolleys supplied for use at Arua Airport by M/s Eclipse/Edilsoil J.V.C Ltd, an authorized local partner of M/s KUSCH+Co GmbH, an internationally recognized Germany manufacturer of Airport furniture. The supply was for 60 lounge seats configured into 4-seater and 5-seater configuration plus 40 baggage trolleys at a cost of Uganda Shillings 243,386,680.
Contrary to the wrong impression created that each lounge seat and trolley cost Uganda shillings 2,400,000, the total cost of the project covered Travel Luggage Trolleys (40), 4-seater Bench Airport seats (5 units totaling 20 seats), 5-seater Bench Airport Seats (8 units totaling 40 seats), back-to-back connection bars, shipping, delivery and tax incidentals, among others. For the record, and in specific terms, each travel trolley cost 1.7 million Uganda shillings, each of the lounge chairs in the 4-seater configuration cost 1.6 million Uganda shillings and the chairs in the 5-seater configuration each cost 1.4 million shillings.
The procurement of the items went through an Open competitive bidding process and M/s Eclipse/Edilsoil J.V.C. Ltd emerged as the best evaluated bidder for delivery of the quality products that are expected to stand the test of time, with a life-span of over 20 years backed with a 10-year warranty. In case any of the items breaks before the warranty date elapses, the manufacturer is supposed to replace it. Many airports procure such durable and high-quality furniture to be used for more than 15 years. It is not prudent to buy seats that would require replacement in a few months. The decision to procure this type is informed by high quality, durability and the need for standardization in order to have similar seats to those used by other international airports. The market survey had an estimate of Euros 48,425 (about Uganda Shillings 208,227,500), exclusive of taxes.
Even some local companies competed in the bid, but did not meet the high product standard specifications, which are commensurate with similar products used at other airports in the world. In relation to the trolleys, for instance, they have an automated and effective breaking mechanism with self-adjustment, which enables a loaded trolley to stop as soon as the handler releases the handle, even when on a slope, among other advanced features. Such a trolley certainly does not cost the same as a basic one on the local market, let alone the materials from which it is made.
It is now becoming common to find inaccurate and distorted claims about airport projects being posted on social media, which is unfortunate. The Authority appeals to all stakeholder to verify facts before misleading the public.
Additional Reporting: Parliament