GORRILA PERMIT SYSTEM: UWA admits lack of due diligence in contracting firm

The inquiry was prompted by revelations from the December 2023 Auditor General’s report, highlighting discrepancies in a contract awarded to MFI Document Solutions. 

Members of Parliament sitting on the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) have interrogated Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials regarding a loss of Shs180 million incurred in a contract related to the gorilla permit system.

The inquiry was prompted by revelations from the December 2023 Auditor General’s report, highlighting discrepancies in a contract awarded to MFI Document Solutions.

UWA engaged MFI to develop software for booking and revenue collection for gorilla permits at a cost of Shs180 million. The contract was terminated after MFI failed to deliver the software, despite receiving an initial payment of Shs150 million.

The Chairperson of the Committee on COSASE, Medard Sseggona, on Monday, 18 March 2024 tasked Jimmy Mugisa, Director of Finance and Administration at UWA to explain the lack of due diligence in the contractor selection process.

“Tell me, how did you conduct due diligence for a company specialising in hardware to undertake software-related tasks? It’s evident that MFI failed to deliver,” said Hon. Sseggona.

In response, Mugisa detailed the procurement process, explaining, “We followed the standard procurement procedures. We invited bids for a booking and revenue collection system, evaluated proposals, and selected MFI as the best bidder. Unfortunately, they couldn’t meet their obligations, leading to contract termination. We are currently in arbitration to recover the Shs150 million paid upfront.”

Stephen Masaba, Director of Tourism and Business Development, conceded to the committee’s concerns regarding due diligence oversights.

“I confirm there was no due diligence as part of the scrutiny,” he said.

The Committee learned that other interested bidders, including MS U Trust, White Snowman Limited and Kenya Airport Limited, were overlooked. Following the contract termination, mediation attempts between UWA and MFI failed, leading to legal action to reclaim the Shs150 million initial payment.

As the session progressed, the focus shifted to accountability within UWA’s hierarchy. The committee interrogated the role of the Contracts Committee, raising concerns about the absence of rigorous background checks. The proceedings took a contentious turn as members scrutinised the decision-making process behind awarding contracts to unqualified firms.

Amidst the exchanges, Mr. Sabilla Chemonges, the Deputy Director Legal and Corporate Affairs and other UWA representatives faced tough questions regarding their oversight responsibilities. Although Chemonges indicated that he did not recall the officer who was in charge of due diligence, MP Sseggona availed him with documents indicating that he was in charge. He admitted to the committee that there was indeed lack of oversight.

Sseggona expressed concern over the lack of due diligence, emphasising the significant financial repercussions and legal expenses incurred by UWA.

“There is no justification for a contract to proceed without due diligence. This oversight has cost us over Shs150 million, not to mention the ongoing legal expenses,” he said.

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