HERE IS WHY KABUSHENGA HAS NO MORAL AUTHORITY TO BASH EC OFFICIALS OVER 200BN BALLOT PAPERS DEAL
By Mulengera Reporters
The procurement process by the Electoral Commission (EC) to procure companies to print the ballot papers for 2021 elections is ongoing. And according to the solicitation of bids document the electoral body sent out sometime back, the job has been split into 9 Lots. Lot 1 is for President and MPs; Lots 2 & 3 for woman MPs and female councilors; Lot 4 for Municipality Mayors & directly elected councilors; Lot 5 for Municipality/City Divisions directly elected councilors; Lot 6 for Sub County Chairpersons; Lot 7 for Sub Counties/Municipality/Division directly elected councilors; Lot 8 for Sub County women councilors and Lot 9 is for SIGs councilors at district and sub county levels. These basically include councilors representing youths, PWDs, older persons and workers. EC’s total budget for all this is approximately Shs200bn.
On Friday 25th September 2020, the EC’s Head Procurement Robert Boorekwa released a 7 (seven) page document showing the outcome of the bidding process which President Museveni (acting in very good faith) had initially hoped to use to build capacity for the local printers as required under the BuBu policy and PPDA reservation guidelines (basically bringing in jobs & circumventing loss of the scarce foreign exchange).
In total over 60 companies applied for the printing jobs under the different Lots. Majority of them were local firms anticipating to ride on the President’s wish (expressed in his written communication to Premier Ruhakana Rugunda) to cash in on the ballot printing billions. Boorekwa’s report shows 51 of them flopped badly majorly for lack of experience in thrice doing work of “similar complexity.”
Mr. Robert Kabushenga’s Vision Group is among those companies whose bids were rejected and according to Boorekwa, they had approached it as a joint venture (JV) bid to soar up their chances. New Vision’s bid was jointly presented with a company called Hightech Graphics. EC insiders say that Kabushenga’s idea was to get awarded some work and then sub contract it to a firm abroad because his Vision Group, dominant as it is, doesn’t readily possess even a fraction of the capabilities required to engage into printing of any security documents. “They demonized Veridos and having made the President see that his Veridos JV with UPPC wouldn’t manage, they have now resorted to demonizing the entire process yet they don’t have any of the required certification for printing of security documents,” a top EC official says of the Kabushenga antics.
The Vision Group boss has been restless demonizing the EC both through his influential newspaper and his personal social media spaces. He has been ceaselessly twitting while accusing EC of overlooking the BuBu policy and PPDA reservation guidelines. He has relentlessly used social media to amplify the news reports carried by his newspaper. Yet EC bosses are increasingly becoming thick-skinned and seem to have well documented reasons to justify their decision to reject the New Vision’s bid for the ballot printing jobs. “The bidder did not state delivery schedule in the bid,” reads part of Boorekwa’s report justifying why they rejected the Vision Group’s JV bid.
Yet in their serialization of what they say has gone wrong in the EC procurement process for the ballot paper printers, the publishers of New Vision have totally been silent about this glaring conflict of interest. And to make their reporting seem selfless and merely aimed at ensuring local printers are considered, the publishers of New Vision have conveniently presented the entire narrative as being championed and advocated by Uganda Printers and Packaging Association (UPPA).
In their self-serving news articles, clearly aimed at overwhelming the EC bosses, the NV publishers have concentrated on fronting Luzira-based Graphic Systems, Picfare Industries Ltd, Inline Printing Servicers Ltd, Multiplex Ltd and Wave Media Ltd as some of the competent local companies that the EC procurement decision-makers have inappropriately locked out. There is no mention of the New Vision-Hightech Graphics Joint Venture (JV) bid as being among those that were rejected at the evaluation stage.
According to Boorekwa, several bidders were rejected and the reasons are well stated in the report and it’s largely lack of experience in printing ballot papers in circumstances of “similar complexity.” A bidder had to show they have handled security printing before (at least thrice). The implication is that a bidder should have printed ballot papers before or in the alternative high security documents like National IDs, driving permits, bank notes and cheques books which isn’t an easy task as was previously documented by Mulengera News (see earlier reporting https://mulengeranews.com/why-m7s-veridos-ballot-papers-deal-cant-work/).
Sources have intimated to Mulengera News that ballot papers’ printing isn’t something that can be experimented about because the quality standards have to be globally comparable; it has a lot to do with the integrity of the consequent electoral process. And gratefully, this is something even the President has eventually understood and accepted because none of the local firms currently can manage delivering ballot papers for 2021 on time even if they were awarded the simplest Lot (e.g. printing ballots for President and MPs). It’s the reason the big man from Rwakitura has lately not been as outspoken calling for the same like he was some months ago when he used to insist on Veridos.
PPDA Executive Director Benson Turamye told Mulengera News this Friday afternoon that he had written to the EC directing them to halt the procurement process relating to the ballot papers printing deal until the grievances being raised in a petition sponsored by Uganda Printers & Packaging Association (UPPA), which some EC insiders see as proxies for Mr. Kabushenga, are looked into. The petitioners chiefly say that the local printing firms have been excluded contrary to the GoU wishes as articulated through the BuBu policy and PPDA reservation guidelines. “We have instituted a committee to look into the concerns that have been raised and we shall guide on the way forward once we are done with our inquiry,” Turamye told Mulengera News in a phone interview. Turamye added that because they don’t want to severely interrupt implementation of the EC 2021 election road map, they intend to expedite their investigations so that the relevant road map activities aren’t fatally constrained.
As the PPDA’s final decision is being awaited, the State-owned New Vision has concentrated on demonizing the foreign firms which the EC’s PDU head Boorekwa had proclaimed as the best evaluated bidders for the different Lots. They include South Africa’s Uniprint; United Printing & Publishing from Dubai, Tall Security Print, Adare Security Ltd from UK and Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing from Dubai. Information disclosed by Boorekwa indicates that United Printing & Publishing will print ballot papers for President and directly elected MPs at a cost of around Shs36.8bn and that Al Ghurair will print ballot papers for women MPs and female councilors for all districts and cities at over Shs35bn.
Yet that isn’t all. Uniprint will print ballot papers for the same category of candidates at Shs43.9bn; Tall Security Print Ltd will print ballot papers for Municipalities/Divisions and Cities’ directly elected councilors at Shs6.2bn; Uniprint will under a different Lot print ballot papers for Division Mayors/Chairpersons and women councilors at Shs10.9bn and Adare Security Ltd will print ballots for Sub County and Town Council Chairpersons at over Shs15.2bn.
Under a different Lot, the same Adare will print ballot papers for Sub Counties/Division/Municipalities’ directly elected councilors at more than Shs22bn. Al Ghurair will under a different Lot print ballot papers for Sub Counties/Municipalities’ women councilors at over Shs30bn and finally Tall Security will under a different Lot print ballot papers for the election of youth, PWDs, workers and elderly persons’ councilors at more than Shs5.2bn.
Boorekwa discloses that some of the companies that were rejected for failing to prove they had the relevant experience doing ballot printing jobs of similar complexity (and other reasons) to include Kabushenga’s New Vision (in joint venture with Hightech Graphics), Group Joos NV, Media World Productions Ltd & Abulhoul Printing Press Ltd JV, BN Enterprises Ltd, In-Line Print Services & Hitech General Trading LLC, Marianum Press Ltd, Oriental Security Printing Solutions, Modern Lithographic (K) Ltd, Baltjas Banknote, Multiplex Ltd, Wave Media Ltd, In-Line Print Services Ltd, Graphics Systems (U) Ltd, Picfare Industries, Ellams Products Ltd and Aero Vote Security Printing Ghana Ltd.
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