EA Procurement Forum to Push for Local Content, Transparency in Industry

Government accountability and public procurement agencies in East Africa have joined the East African Procurement Forum and exhibition due in Kampala next month, amidst worries about foreign competition for local contracts.

The 14th Forum organized under the theme: “Open Contracting as a vehicle for Sustainable Development,” is aimed at encouraging openness or transparency in the procurement industry.

It comes at a time when Ugandan firms are calling for affirmative action by the government when giving out public contracts.

Unfortunately, many government projects are given out to companies that also have the ability to mobilize finances to execute the work before the government reimburses them, or recoups their investment from managing such projects on completion.  The Forum is open to all local regional and international firms seeking contracts to supply or offer services in the East African Community.

It is hosted by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority and organized by Fathil International Projects (FIPRO) a regional marketing firm.

FIPRO representative, Fred Kanongo admits that since it is a free and open event, big deals are likely to be done with big multinational agencies while local Uganda and East African firms lose out on most of them.

He suggests that the host agency and the responsible government departments arrange a segment for local contractors and suppliers with the possibility of ring-fencing some of the contracts for them.

On the practice of closed contracting, Chris Magoba, the head of corporate and public affairs at PPDA, said that this is done based on the PPDA Act 2003.

“Where this Act conflicts with an obligation of the Republic of Uganda arising out of an agreement with one or more states, or with an international organization, the provisions of the agreement shall prevail over this Act,” reads Section 4 (1).

And sub Section 2 reads, “Where an agreement referred to in this section contains a preference or preferences in favor of national and resident providers, a procuring and disposing of an entity shall ensure that the applicable preference or preferences are clearly stated in the bidding documents.”

Kanongo says that what the government and the private sector can do is build the capacity of local contractors and producers to be able to compete, which is the more sustainable approach.

He says that this also applies to suppliers of products because it is an open market and hence hard to block supplies from the more developed industries.

PPDA Executive Director, Benson Tumuramye says this is the first time that the East African Business Expo will be running alongside the Forum with the aim of bridging the gap between suppliers and buyers who are mainly the public institutions that procure the goods and services. 

“We have always had The East African Procurement Forum every year, but without opening up the platform to suppliers. This year, we have partnered with FIPRO, who will organize the business expo alongside the procurement forum over a four-day period,” said Tumuramye.

In a courtesy call on the East African Community Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga, Tumuramye says they were expecting 500 exhibitors, which Ugandans should take advantage of.

Kadaga called for more openness in the contracting processes where the bigger part of the value of corruption takes place.

The 1st Deputy Prime Minister also says she is pushing for the elimination of trade barriers within the region so that goods and services can move freely.

On their part as organizers, Kanongo urges the government and the business community to take advantage of the forum and the expo to strengthen trade relationships in the region. He says the barriers, for example, affect citizens from both sides of the border.

Patrick Wanjuki, the Director General of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority of Kenya who is leading the Kenyan delegation to Uganda says this is a big opportunity for East African suppliers to show what they can offer. 

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