Mukase Valentine, vice mayor Karongi district has for another consecutive year failed to convince the parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on efforts to change its management of public tenders especially the controversial cross border that has remained defunct for years.
To this, the district has added a new trend of borrowing other districts’ projects for implementation.
During a PAC hearing September 30, Members of Parliament heard that the district has persistently failed to abide by tendering rules and procedures which is reflected in the poor performance in compliance with 61% implementation of previous Auditor Generals recommendations.
The issue of the failed Rwf1.5billion Karongi cross border market project returned as a central focus for this failure in which PAC members said that by the market remaining incomplete since 2016 is a loss on the government side.
Despite some district officials having resigned over the fraudulent practices in the cross border market, Parliament heard from the OAG that there has not been any progress to complete the project.
For instance, parliament heard before Covid-19, that the market was occupied at 60% and only animal’s stock area was operational by time of auditors’ visit to access its progress.
The report findings also showed that this is because of some incomplete areas such as fencing and access road considering the hilly terrain in Karongi.
“We have lost money in the project and this is an overdue problem but now we need to know how it will be solved to have the access road so as to get value for money,” MP Marie Mediatrice Izabiriza inquired.
Karongi Vice Mayor, MUKASE Valentine said that the delay was because the first funding was meant for the market structure and the donor has not provided funding for the next phase until they account work done, of which dates are yet to be decided.
Claudine Marie Solange Nyinawagaga, the Director-General of Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA) said that they are discussing the road and additional works to be done to complete the project though this was setback by Covid-19 and no activity on borders.
Persistent Tender issues
Karongi also went ahead to offer 4 tenders (Rwf1.3billion) which were above their budget sealing of Rwf977.8million representing a 41% increase, contrary to the public procurement law which stipulates that an entity ensures sufficient budget allocation before.
Karongi also breached ministerial order requiring setting up modalities of informing the Chief Budget Officer, procurement team and a public legal officer before negotiating and signing 7 contracts worth Rwf2.2billion for purchase of construction material, construction of Kibuye health center, Genocide survivors’ houses and planting trees, supply of girinka program among others.
“Negotiation of contract by an illegible member casts a doubt on transparency and fairness of negotiation process as such a district can incur losses or acquire services at a high cost,” the Deputy Auditor General said.
To make matters worse MP Alice Uwera Kayumba informed parliament that some district like Karongi didn’t provide report on these illegal tenders and also adopted a ‘bad habit’ of borrowing contracts (of similar natures) signed in other districts to implement development programs, of which MPs asked for an explanation.
Kayumba showed that Karongi borrowed a service contract used in Musanze district for a street lighting job, and another from Nyamasheke district which was used in a printing staff identity cards and t-shirts.
“Tell us how and when did this program of borrowing used contracts copies started coming in?” Kayumba asked.
“It is true we did borrow the contracts but it was an issue of urgency and we have little time, so we decided to forge a way out,” said James Karangwa, the Karongi district Executive Secretary.
Karangwa also explained that mistakes in filing e-tender was also true but caused by negligence and mistakenly forgetting to consolidate the tenders in the e-procurement system after the tenders were offered outside the e-system.
MPs pinned officials to explain their negligence to existing procurement laws but officials alleged that there is negligence to abide by laws, human errors and some administrative measures taken on some of staff however noted that the nature of force accounts doesn’t allow renegotiations.
“How long does it take to ask for permission to conduct an emergency tender and how can you fail to give a report to the procurement authority even if the tender was an emergent one?” asked MP Christine Bakundufite.
Antoine Kayire, the national procurement authority official in PAC said that emergency is no excuse whatsoever, since existence of memorandums of Understanding between all parties requires assessments in tender committee as part of the legal practice.
Apparently similar cases of offering tenders outside the e-system were mentioned in Musanze and Kirehe districts during the ongoing PAC hearing.
For example in Musanze, officials were reported to have paid 90% of a tender fee to Reserve Force as an open source bidder, before the job was commenced.
District officials including the Director of Administration & Finance and budget officer said it is because of the nature of the memorandum the reserve force has with the government but there is also trust based on a track record of 100% job execution especially ones where enterprises abandon contracts halfway.
PAC chairman MP Valens Muhakwa said that not following the guidelines provided within such circumstances is a bad management attitude and the government must find a way of resolving it before it becomes a common practice in other districts.
“We have to respect the procedures provided by emergency tenders. This is a practice that we are starting to see in other districts and the Ministry of Local government has to do something,” Muhakwa said.
In response, the Local Government Permanent Secretary, Samuel Dusengiyumva, said that this is something that will be streamlined and resolved within government.
The OAG report summary presented to parliament this year shows that district had 20 delayed contracts (worth Rwf29.1billion), stalled projects (Rwf3.6billion of which Rwf2.3billion had been paid off) and three abandoned contracts worth Rwf1.8billion