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PPDA faults Parliament on office hire deal with Sudhir 

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By Amos Ngwomoya

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) has cited glaring procurement irregularities which were made by the Parliamentary Commission during acquisition of office space at Kingdom Kampala building.

The revelation is contained in a September 9, 2021 letter to the accounting officer of Parliamentary Commission, which was compiled by PPDA’s executive director Benson Turamye.

The nine-page letter was also copied to the Inspectorate of Government and the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit.

This follows a June 28 petition by a whistleblower challenging the manner in which Parliament gave out the office space deal to Kingdom Kampala Ltd without considering other service providers.

Located on Nile Avenue, Kingdom Kampala is a high-rise city building owned by businessman Sudhir Ruparelia.

PPDA sought to find out whether the hire of 9,030 square metres of office space for a period of two years from Kingdom Kampala Ltd was conducted in accordance with the provisions of the PPDA Act, 2003 and regulations.

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In March, the Parliamentary Commission, at its 89th meeting, approved a proposal for the entity to rent additional office as a result of the failure by ROKO Construction Ltd to complete the construction of the new chamber of Parliament.

During the meeting, it was resolved to use a direct procurement method due to limited time based on the guidance of the department of Sergeant-At-Arms.

The Sergeant-At-Arms, Mr Ahmed Kagoye, on March 30, directed the senior assistant Sergeant-At-Arms to carry out a survey of buildings in square metres for hire of office premises.

The market survey was undertaken on 13 facilities as per the list of properties submitted by Knight Frank Uganda Ltd.

The specifications include area of 9.030 square metres, parking space for at least 300 vehicles, 24-hour security, and a distance of 400 metres to enable ICT infrastructure to be configured to the main Parliament building.

However, the senior assistant Sergeant-At-Arms submitted a market survey report indicating that Kingdom Kampala Ltd was the only building that met the requirements.

Mr Turamye in his letter noted that the Parliamentary Commission did not have the powers to recommend the use of the direct procurement as guided by the user department in contravention of the PPDA Act 2003 and the Administration of Parliament Act1997. 

He also noted that the market survey was inconclusive since it did not take into consideration any other potential premises in the market outside Knight Frank (U) Ltd’s management. 

It was also found out that the figures quoted by the chief government valuer and the rental price quoted by Kingdom Kampala Ltd including service charge and parking slot costs were identical without any deviation.

The price quoted by both parties was more than Shs699million, Value Added Tax exclusive per month comprising of headline rent (more than Shs561million), service charge (more than Shs82 million), and parking for 300 vehicles (more than Shs54 million).

 “…the authority found out that conspicuous similarity between the prices as quoted by the valuation team from the office of the government valuer and the prices quoted by Kingdom Kampala especially given the fact that the valuation was undertaken prior to initiation of the procurement and fluctuating US Dollar to Shillings exchange rate implies that there was potential collusion between the Sergeant-At-Arms department and Kingdom Kampala in fixing the ultimate cost of rental space,” the letter reads in part. 

According to the solicitation document, Kingdom Kampala Ltd would provide parking slots on a complimentary basis. 

However, the Parliamentary Commission signed the contract of rent office premises with the bidder at more than Shs19 million causing a financial loss of more than Shs1.2 billion to government. 

PDDA recommended that the Sergeant-At-Arms and the Contracts Committee should be held responsible for the irregular recommendation for use of the direct procurement method. 

“…the accounting officer should take appropriate disciplinary action against the Sergeant-At-Arms for colluding with Kingdom Kampala Ltd in determining the ultimate cost of the contract for hire of 9,030 square metres of office space for a period  of two years,” Mr Turamye wrote.

Parliament reacts

When contacted yesterday, Parliament’s director of Communications and Public Affairs Chris Obore said there has been an investigation into a number of issues which he said will be addressed by the Clerk to Parliament when they are concluded. 

“The Speaker has emphasised transparency in all aspects and I can assure you that for any investigation that is made, a decision will be made as established in the law,” Mr Obore said. 

He added: “The Clerk is a robust lawyer who wouldn’t want the name of the institution to be tarnished. Therefore that letter from PPDA will be handled and a decision will follow.”

He said the Parliamentary Commission will convene this week to discuss a number of issues and that the PPDA findings will be discussed if at all the matter is brought on table.

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