WHY M7’S VERIDOS BALLOT PAPERS PLAN CAN’T WORK
By Mulengera Reporters
During his speech on Heroes Day, President Museveni proudly reiterated his wish to have German company Veridos (working in joint venture with UPPC) being the one to handle all security printing for the GoU. For starters, government security documents’ printing being referred to here includes academic transcripts/transcripts for public Universities, cheque books, bank notes/currency, driving permits, national IDs, passports and others. Ballot papers too fall under this category being a high security document in itself. Gen Museveni said in his speech that dealing with Veridos would eliminate middle men-related expenses and brokerage fees while ensuring that the resultant skills and knowledge transfers happens as well. He also spoke of the job opportunities for the Ugandan graduates on top of capacity building for UPPC which is a government corporation (that has been struggling for years). But notwithstanding the President’s good intentions, Veridos/UPPC JV doesn’t seem prepared to deliver the ballot printing assignment for 2021.
Mulengera News has established that to do that job, moreover doing everything locally here as Gen Museveni anticipates, there are lengthy preparatory processes that must have commenced by now for purposes of the ballot papers for 2021. You for instance require to at least have $11m initially invested to be able to pull it off. This money must go into the purchase of several sets of machines required to do the different categories of security printing. This is so because the machines used to print a combination of national IDs and driving permits is different from one that prints cheque books. Each such set of machinery costs a minimum of $3m (roughly over Shs9bn). You will require another $4m for a machine that prints ballot papers and another separate set of machinery to print academic certificates for the Universities.
Yet that isn’t all. After being procured, the relevant machinery has to be shipped into Uganda and that transiting alone can take more than 45 days. Once here, you need another two months for the installation of the machinery, a process that can even have some defects necessitating repeating the entire exercise. Those are four months and by the time you are done, it will be towards December for polls slated for January 2021. If you are to ensure job opportunities for the local Ugandans as desired by Gen Museveni, you need a minimum of another two months to train the first batch of people to participate in the production and in the process facilitate knowledge transfer. By the time that is done (and can only happen after machinery installation), it will be towards April 2021 months after the January 2021 polling is done. Even when you are done with all that, some mistake could result from human error necessitating repeating the entire production process of the ballot papers. Such inevitable mistakes are costly both in terms of money and time. For example sometime back, similar mistakes were made by the UK firm that UNEB had contracted to print candidates’ certificates whereby one of the UNEB bosses’ signature was skipped and printing went on without the signature being on. It had to be redone and the employer (UNEB) had to incur over $800,000 in additional expenses to correct that defect that had occurred.
Several printing industry watchers Mulengera News spoke to disclosed that the best Veridos can do, in case EC gets cowed and reluctantly lets them in, will be sub-contracting the ballot printing job to firms outside the country otherwise building local capacity to locally meet Gen Museveni’s expectations is simply not possible at least for the purposes of 2021 elections. Reliable sources say that EC officials have equally expressed their reservations in several meetings casting doubt in Veridos’ capability to locally do the ballot printing job for 2021.
2.5BN LOSS FEARED
In a related development, war is quietly brewing between two potential service providers for the provision of indelible ink that is used for polling purposes by the EC to mark out and distinguish those that have already cast their votes to prevent multiple voting. The procurement process began months ago and it’s now nearing the finishing phase. Two companies are busy seeking to upstage each other and be the one to take the deal. The two companies, one of which has already vowed to report to the President in case it confirms foul play, include Elmac and Ren Form from SA. Elmac, which sources say is more competitive and stands a higher chance of taking the job, is working as a Joint Venture with an Indian firm that already has some contract in Uganda for the production of number plates (also done by tycoon Gordon Wavamunno’s GM Tumpeco). There are claims that there is potential for a Shs2.5bn extra cost to result to the detriment of the GoU if EC bosses don’t act more prudently. “The decision that is on the verge of being made could in the end cost government over Shs2.5bn in case a more expensive bidder gets awarded the contract to supply the indelible ink for 2021,” says one of the State House spies keenly following all 2021-related procurements by the EC. For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).