By Akech Oilvia
Local companies have petitioned the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) over being unfairly denied the staggering Shs 82bn ballot papers printing deal.
Last month, EC ditched the bids from three qualified Ugandan companies and awarded the tender of printing ballot papers to seven foreign companies including: Tall Security Printers (UK), Uniprint (South Africa), United Printing and Publishing (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Adare Sec Ltd (UK), and Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company (Dubai).
The local companies including popularly known Graphic Systems and Picfare Industries Limited petitioned the EC to fairly revisit the bidding process and consider bids since they can perform the required tasks. Unfortunately, the EC didn’t consider the petition forcing the local companies to seek arbitration from the PPDA.
Kampala Times has got the copies of the appeals from the local companies. Graphic Systems stated that the E.C technical team toured their firm and confirmed, in writing, that they have the capacity to print 145 million ballot papers in one month.
“EC team toured Graphic Systems and they were satisfied that we have enough capacity to print ballot papers. A letter dated 21st May 2020 was issued by EC that Graphic Systems can print 145mn ballot papers in 30 days,” said part of the petition from Graphic Systems.
Mr Benson Turamye, the PPDA executive director recently said they were still assessing the petitions from five local companies before declaring their verdict.
- Meanwhile, Justice Byabakama ruled out local companies in printing the ballots, on account of lack of capacity.
Justice Byabakama explained that there are many variables involved in printing ballot papers which in case of a mistake, can cause a national crisis. He cited Kampala District which has five divisions and each must have separate elective positions and candidates. It is some of these complexities that EC considered in addition to lack of security features to deny local companies the deal to print the 2021 ballot papers.
“We have to support Buy Uganda Build Uganda. But in our technical assessment, it was found out that the local companies do not have the capacity to print ballot papers. A ballot paper is not like any other print. It has many things. There are so many variables. When you set a newspaper to be sold to the entire country, what variable do you make there? When you set an examination paper, what variable do you have there?” Justice Byabakama said.
He added: “If you make a mistake in printing ballot papers, then you are heading for a crisis. According to our technical people, they found that they [local printers] do not have security printing capacity to avoid ballot papers being duplicated by other printers. It is a whole range of issues. The way you know our politicians, can they accept that we print ballot papers here in Uganda? It is not enough to have a big plant. But do you have the capacity to print those engraved features that are in ballot papers?”
Justice Byabakama said the coronavirus outbreak affected the EC activities and budget with an additional Shs50 billion needed to put in place measures to prevent further spread of the virus during the election season.
Already, more than Shs800 billion had been budgeted to take the commission through the three-year phased preparations for the 2021 elections.
“When we were doing the budget in 2018, nobody knew Covid-19 was around the corner. But now we are saying every polling station must have handwashing machines and temperature guns,” he said.
Justice Byabakama said they are using this period to sort the candidates’ particulars like photographs, the symbols, party flag and name as they wait for the PPDA verdict and hope to finally have ballot papers ready by early December.
Without giving details, Justice Byabakama said they had awarded Shs80b procurement contract of biometrics to a foreign firm.
“Contract for biometrics has been awarded. It is another foreign company. Ugandans have been awarded to provide aprons and some other printing work taking place. But transmission system, ballot papers were given to foreign companies. We are procuring a system where every polling station (more than 35,000 polling stations) will have that system to identify voters,” Justice Byabakama said.