The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) on Wednesday quizzed management of Uganda Airlines over inflated procurements.
The accountability committee chaired by Hon Joel Sseyonyi probed Uganda Airlines for flouting procurement procedures to hire public relations and advertising firm at an 'inflated' total cost of Shs2 billion in contraventions with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) regulations that calls for an open and competitive bidding process.
According to Hon Ssenyonyi, in 2019, Uganda Airlines irregularly and selectively handpicked three advertising firms without pre-qualification and competitive bidding process and subsequently, awarded the contract to the firm with the highest quotation. The shortlisted firms were; Abbavater Group Ltd, Star Leo and WMC Africa.
Despite flouting the PPDA regulations, the committee in its investigations revealed how Uganda Airlines went ahead to award the contract to Abbavater Group Ltd at a cost of Shs174.6 million per month yet other media firms; Star Leo and WMC Africa had quoted lower prices of Shs36.8 million and Shs35.2 million per month respectively.
“I am puzzled because these three firms were handpicked and on top of that the contract is being given to a firm that was proposing a figure that is many times more than the other two firms…If there was proper bidding then we would want to understand how the decision was arrived at,” Hon Ssenyonyi said.
Hon Ferigo Kambale (Kasese Municipality) said it was erroneous for Uganda Airlines to enter into a contractual agreement with firms without following the requisite procurement procedures.
“The issue of pre-qualification is a provision of procurement procedure in all government entities. The fact that you picked three companies when they are not pre-qualified is alone a mistake. Even a local government knows that you have to be pre-qualified before you go into selective bidding,” Hon Kambale said.
Uganda Airlines CEO, Jennifer Bamuturaki who was then director, Commercials said she was not part of the contracts and evaluation committee that decided to hire Abbavater Group Ltd despite records showing that she was a member of the committee.
“There is an evaluation form that was handled by the person who signed [on the contract]. When I read the evaluation form, I can’t understand why the person who signed the contract went for the company [Abbavater] that was evaluated,” Bamuturaki said. Hon Ssenyonyi cited conflict of interest from Bamuturaki in the award of contract to Abbavater, saying that Uganda Airlines CEO has on some occasions signed contracts on behalf of the advertising firm.
“I am thinking that Abbavater got special consideration because of you [Bamuturaki]. I have an audio and it alludes to them…. I asked you if you had any relationship with Abbavater, but you denied and yet in one of the contracts, you signed it on their behalf of the company which establishes that you have connections with them,” Hon Ssenyonyi said.
However, Bamuturaki said she only knew Abbavater CEO Mark Odeke as a friend with whom she used to volunteer at his church.