A special investigation by the Auditor General (AG) into the procurement of air tickets at Parliament has concluded that the processes for buying tickets for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and House staff did not follow procurement laws.
Mr John Muwanga’s forensic audit report also questioned why in the Financial Year 2016/17, Parliament procured air tickets worth Shs11.9b but out of the 766 pre-qualified suppliers for air tickets or agents, 604 selections were made among four suppliers.
Swanair Travel and Safaris Uganda Ltd gobbled Shs3.9b, taking 27 per cent of the air tickets while Site Travels Limited took home Shs2.6b (21 per cent) of the selections.
“It was further observed that on a number of occasions, only one or two of the firms were contacted. This not only violates Regulation 43(1) of the PPDA Regulations 2014 but further reduces the opportunity for competition,” Mr Muwanga’s report reads in part.
PPDA laws flouted
The AG also faulted Parliament’s procurement department for flouting regulation 51(1) of the PPDA Act that requires accounting officers to manage a contract and Sub-Regulation 4 that requires the contract manager to discuss and resolve any reservations in the contract terms and conditions with the procurement and disposal unit.
“Contrary to the above, on a number of instances, contract managers were not appointed. This weakened the management of delivery of these air tickets since there was no dedicated officer (contract manager) to follow up the services being provided,” the report notes.
The report concluded that the process of selecting travel agents/supplier of tickets was not fully open to rotation of suppliers as required by Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) regulations.
The report will be reviewed by Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises to determine the next course of action.
At the time of the special audit, $472,113 (Shs1.7b) in air ticket bills were still outstanding as the amount that had been paid by various travel agents on behalf of Parliament for MPs and staff of Parliament that had travelled between April 8, 2016 and March 15 this year.
Mr Muwanga conducted the special audit following a November 17, 2017 complaint by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, in which she reported that MPs were being disadvantaged by not being able to alter or upgrade their tickets.
Ms Kadaga detailed her own experience when she was denied travel entitlements by the Dubai-based airline Emirates on grounds that she was travelling using a promotional ticket yet her expenses are paid for by the Parliament Commission.
The report faults Parliament’s procurement department for booking the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and MPs in classes below their entitlements, which denied them the full benefits that accrue from their entitled class of tickets.