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BIG STORY: Why Museveni blocked EC’s Shs60bn relocation deal

The development comes at a time when the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has put the commission on the neck threatening to evict them from its Jinja Road-based head offices to pave the way for the completion of the multi-billion Kampala Flyover project.

The Electoral Commission offices on Jinja Road, Kampala. President Museveni has stopped the Electoral Commission (EC) from buying an already built office valued at Shs60 billion. PHOTO/FILE

KAMPALA, UGANDA: President Museveni has blocked the move by the Electoral Commission (EC) to relocate to a shs 60 billion office in Butabika as its new headquarters, DailyMonitor reported on Wednesday.

The President in a July letter stopped the move to relocate the commission headquarters on Jinja Road in Kampala to Butabika and instead directed that the EC moves into an office space on 7th Street in Industrial Area, previously occupied by the National Housing and Construction Company (NHCC) before settling into a permanent home at Lubowa, Wakiso District in the future.

The development comes at a time when the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has put the commission on the neck threatening to evict them from its Jinja Road-based head offices to pave the way for the completion of the multi-billion Kampala Flyover project.

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The EC had planned to buy property sitting on an an 18-acre piece of land  in Butabika, Kampala which was originally valued at Shs111 billion. The land had previously housed Gems Cambridge International School.

Another option was a four-acre piece of land in Bweyogerere valued at Shs44 billion.

“One of the brokers had inflated the prices for the preferred buildings,” a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, adding, “But also the President didn’t want to favour any[side] since he knew the owners.”

When contacted for a comment, Mr Farouk Kirunda, Assistant Press Secretary inside State House, confirmed the development, saying:  “I know there was a directive to this effect … but I can’t comment further because there is a team that has been directed to handle the matter.” 

He added that the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was directed to handle the matter.

Mr Paul Bukenya, the EC spokesperson, told Monitor on Monday that clearance to move into a new office space had been given. He was, however, unsure about the exact destination.

“It is in our interest that we get a new location because this place has become inconvenient and a burden to Unra,” he said, adding, “The country is losing a lot of money with our stay here, but when and how we shall move from here is just a matter of days. We shall inform the public on the details as and when they come in.”

Last week, NHCC announced its relocation from their offices at 7th Street in the Industrial Area to Crested Towers where they will be sub-renting with other entities. The announcement was made in newspapers.
Daily Monitor has also learnt that the NHCC is set to officially hand over the building they have evacuated to the EC this week where they will be renting. Details of the amount the EC will be paying in rent are still scanty.

Mr Kenneth Kaijuka, the NHCC chief executive, told Monitor on Monday: “The agreement to procure a new place for EC has already been signed, but the cost of the deal will be finalised when the ground plan of the building is completed.”

According to the plan, the new EC home will be built on a five-acre piece of land in Lubowa. It will have offices, parking space, warehouses for the equipment, tally centre and nomination grounds. 
The headquarters will also have a printing press for voting materials as well as stores for other documents.

BACKGROUND

About three years ago, the Electoral Commission initiated the procurement of office premises at the estimated cost of Shs60bn. The commission had on four attempts invited bids under the open domestic bidding method however all four processes were unsuccessful. The commission then sought guidance from the Attorney General to use the direct procurement method since the need to vacate its present premises on plot 55 Jinja Road by June 30, 2021 to pave the way for road works is underway. The learned Attorney General in response guided that the Commission should comply with the requirements set out under regulation 17 of the PPDA (Rules and methods for procurement of services, works and non-consultancy services) Regulations 2014.

The requirement for the office premises was one acre of land as minimum, with a minimum office space of 7,555 square metres including washrooms and with sufficient air circulation at a budget estimate of Shs60bn.

However, the offer made by Property Services Ltd (the sole bidder) worth Shs111.3bn is about 86% above the budget and thus puts the entity at risk in the event that the property is acquired. Whereas the property offered by Property Services Limited was located on 18.6 acres, the commission required a minimum of one acre without a maximum requirement stated. The property also had additional facilities like two swimming pools and tennis court, basketball court, football pitch and two hostel blocks which were not required by the commission, but contribute to the price of the property and the commission would have to incur maintenance costs for excess facilities they had initially not envisioned thus increasing the whole lifecycle cost of acquiring the property both of which would amount to nugatory expenditure in the event that the property is acquired by the commission.

Apparently, Property Services Limited keeps lowering the price but still the proprietor is above the EC’s set price. He started at Shs111.3bn to Shs97bn and the latest information coming in indicates that they are willing to settle for Shs75bn.

Additional Reporting by Derrick Wandera / DailyMonitor

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