The existing relationship between CoST and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) has made it possible for CoST to access 14 projects to undergo the 3rd assurance process as this was one of the recommendations that were made in the 2nd Assurance Report to PPDA. This is going to make work easier for the assurance professionals to retrieve proactive data with the hope that most of these projects are already existing on the Government Procurement Portal (GPP). The recommendation comes with genuine hope that these are projects that stakeholders need an independent opinion in regard to their performance. The 3rd Assurance process will be conducted from April to August 2019, by a Team of Assurance professionals under CoST Uganda with the support of the Multi-Stakeholder Group, the Secretariat and the Procuring Entities under assurance.
The 14 projects cut across 5 procuring entities such as the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) with two projects; that is Design Review and Construction supervision for civil works under Busega-Mpigi Expressway (23.7kms) and reconstruction of washed out and failed bridges in Northern Uganda under Design and Build Lot 03: Design and Build of Awoo Bridge.
Ministry of Education and Sports with 3 projects that is Construction of a hostel at Mbarara University of Science and Technology at Kihumuro Campus and construction of an engineering workshop at Kyambogo University. Construction of one faculty of agriculture and environment, one multi-functional research laboratory block and one library block for Gulu University at the main campus, and the construction of a health science centre at Lira University constituent college campus at Lira. There is also construction of additional facilities at Jinja Primary Teachers College.
Under the Ministry of Health, there are two projects that is Rehabilitation and Expansion of Kayunga-Yumbe hospitals in two lots by Lot 1 and Rehabilitation and Expansion of Kayunga-Yumbe hospitals in two lots by Lot 2 .Ministry of Water and Environment has two projects that is plan, design and construction of solar powered micro irrigation schemes in Lot 1: Western Uganda Districts – August 2018 Report, Construction completion of Mabira dam and watering . Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development with two projects that is Construction of; Lot 1 – Police station; Lot 2 – St Francis Roman Catholic Church – Nyakasinini; and Lot 3 – Wambabya Parish Anglican COU and Maintenance of Jinja Fuel Storage Tanks facility.
What is Assurance anyway?
Project or Program Assurance is a discipline that seeks to provide an independent and objective oversight of the likely future performance of major projects for those responsible for sanctioning, financing or insuring such undertakings.
The relevance of CoST Assurance on infrastructure Projects is viewed as working together for improved performance which means making progress towards the right infrastructure designed and built through a genuinely competitive process to the right specification which is on time, on budget and with no associated inefficiency, mismanagement or corruption risks hence putting this to good use of resource that benefits government, the private sector and the citizenry as a whole. Being an independent study, overseen by a Team of Assurance Professionals, and verified by the Multi-Stakeholder Group, validated by the Procurement Entities and affected communities, the Assurance process;
With a high analytical interface, CoST Uganda has carried out 2 assurance processes on infrastructure projects between 2017 and 2018 in partnership with procuring entities and the process has produced results for both to appreciate and learn from.
More than 92.3%; or 36 out of 39 of the recommendations made by CoST to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) had been acted upon. Interviews with KCCA also expressed their appreciation of the assurance processes that CoST undertakes. However, there was still some tendency by the officers interviewed to conceive CoST as playing an audit function through assurance rather than facilitating stakeholder engagement over infrastructure transparency. They argued that other institutions such as the Auditor-General, the KCCA Public Accounts Committee the internal auditors and others were actually also carrying out related activities. This observation suggests the need to continue to engage with PEs on the CoST approach.
Feedback from the Uganda National Roads authority as reflected in the table in Annex 1 also indicates a good response. Thirty four out of thirty-seven (34/37) (92%) recommendations made to UNRA had been acted upon. It was also found out during the survey that UNRA was reviewing its scope of disclosure of information on different infrastructure projects. UNRA also indicated they had established structures that undertake tasks related to assurance on infrastructure projects but maintained that they had a lot to learn from CoST approaches as well as providing room for CoST to conduct Assurance.
With the growing interest by government, there is need for continuous collaboration between CSO’s and government as CSO’s take an extra step of doing what sometimes government is unable to do like monitoring of infrastructure projects due to limited funding in government. The CoST Assurance process goes beyond monitoring and gives an in-depth inward look into the life of the project, this gives the CSOs, Private Sector and Government a clear image of the outward look of the projects being implemented. Assurance also enables the stakeholders’ document good practice for learning and adoption in other projects. Despite the relevance of assurance to projects in Uganda, there are challenges as some officials do not want to disclose data, and or are inaccessible because they have not fully embraced openness and transparency in the project delivery; we encourage all officials to embrace transparency as a door to better project delivery.
Learning from our experiences, Local Governments have been receptive to CoST recommendations and always take keen interest to address them, this spirit should spill over bottom up to central government officials. Constructive engagement for better results in public infrastructure should be the way to go. When you have someone telling you things are not okay, you should take that person as a close friend, for we all work to ensure that that there are better lives from better infrastructure and investments result into better service deliver leading to improved quality of lives of our citizens.
CoST is a Multi-Stakeholder Global Infrastructure Transparency Initiative that supports the Governments in enhancing transparency and value for money through Disclosure, Assurance and Multi-Stakeholder working of public infrastructure projects. In Uganda the Initiative is championed by the Ministry of Works and Transport and has been implementing in close relationship with other procuring entities and over sight bodies whose goal is to deliver better infrastructure to improve citizens’ lives. CoST Uganda is hosted by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre, (AFIC) a pan African NGO that promotes Access to Information and Open Contracting in Africa.