The National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) has come out to clarify that the recent media reports that allude to impropriety in the Missing Links bidding process are false and unsubstantiated.
“The procurement process was adhered to with the requisite quality checks along the way”. the Authority said in an official communication.
The Government of Uganda (GoU), through NITA-U, is in the process of implementing the National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure and e-Government Infrastructure (NBI/EGI) project to connect all major towns across the country including Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies via an optical fiber cable network so as to reduce the cost of public administration, support delivery of secure e-Government services as well as enhance communications services in the country.
What is the Missing Links Project?
Following the successful completion of Phases I – III of the NBI/EGI Project, as part of a deliberate effort to ensure the network is able to consistently provide 99.9%, the Missing Links project was started upon. The Missing Links project details laying out of concentric rings connected through optical fiber cable that will ensure self-resilient National Communications Infrastructure.
Status of the procurement process
As is the normal procedure with Government procurements that are donor-funded, NITA-U embarked on the Missing Links procurement process as per the World Bank guidelines for International Competitive bidding.
Below is a summary of the events:
- Develop Standard Bidding Document; Submit for review and no objection from the World Bank – Completed
- Conduct Environment & Social Impact Assessment for the project; Submit report to NEMA for approval- Completed
- Put out a general procurement notice (International Competitive Bidding (ICB)) – Completed. Print adverts run on 14th August 2017 in the East African newspaper and on 17th August 2017 in the New Vision newspaper
- Organize for pre-bid conference/meeting with all interested suppliers, capture and address all queries/issues raised- Completed
- Submit all amendments to the document (based on the pre-bid issues) for review and no objection from the World Bank – Completed
- Confirm and communicate the bid submission date to receive bids- Completed
- Receive and open bids- Completed
- Undertake the Technical Evaluation – Ongoing
- Submit Report of Evaluation Report to the Contracts Committee – Scheduled
- Submit Approved Report to the World Bank for Review and Approval – If any queries these are addressed and resubmitted until a NO OBJECTION is received Scheduled – Scheduled
- Undertake Post Evaluation Review on Likely Best Evaluated Bidder – Scheduled
- Submit Report now updated with the Post Evaluation to WB for Approval – Scheduled
- Submit Approved Report to Contracts Committee – Scheduled
- Display Best Evaluated Bidder Notice publically – Scheduled
The Authority says that during the pre-bid stage, all suppliers were invited to view the bid specification and it was at this stage that if a particular supplier had concerns with the bid specification detail, they would raise concern. It claims that no concerns were registered and this signaled the transition to the next stage of the procurement process.
This, therefore, infers that should any impropriety been registered, it would have been picked up and addressed.
In addition, the World Bank uses its global technical experts to audit/review and subsequently approve the documents and the completion of each and every stage.
NITA-U reassures its stakeholders that all bid specification documentation was prepared internally by a technically competent and highly skilled team of knowledge matter experts.
Commenting on the development, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Hon Frank Tumwebaze cautioned suppliers that apply for government contracts to desist from peddling falsehoods as this attenuates the entire procurement process. ‘Suppliers need to respect the process and those that don’t face the risk of disqualification and consequent blacklisting from participating in future Government procurements,’ he added.
Whilst ill-fated, the originators of the false news around the National Backbone Infrastructure, Missing Links Project, are noticeably intent on downplaying Uganda’s progress in achieving widespread connectivity and significantly lowered internet bandwidth costs to Ugandan individuals and organizations over the last ten years.