Kyambogo in Sh6 Billion Shady Deal in Uganda

Computing

Kyambogo University has embarked on a process of contracting an information and communications technology firm that would cost students Shs6.16 billion for a period of seven years without advertising, Daily Monitor has learnt. However, the deal has not been subjected to tendering as required by the Public Procurement and Disposal Act (PPDA).

A firm, Socketworks Project, is poised to take over this project after successfully convincing the university's Planning and Development Department, according to the university PRO James Bulenzibuto.

The project, which is "to bring a thriving digital culture to Kyambogo University" is aimed at facilitating the use of ICT in improving the quality of learning at the University," according to a proposal, a copy of which Daily Monitor has seen. Among the directors of Socketworks is Odrek Rwabwogo, a son-in-law to President Museveni.

According to a university memo, it is imperative that Kyambogo University builds a sound system and infrastructure to support its development in view of the critical role ICT plays in higher education delivery. "Kyambogo University will therefore benefit by embracing the Socketworks Project," the memo from the university secretary reads.

The recommendation however was made for a project that was not advertised by the public university. "Socketworks was introduced to us by the Ministry of Education and Sports, which said they could interface with us. A proposal was written which the university technical people looked at. Socketworks presented it and people were convinced," Mr Bulenzibuto said. That move contradicts the regulations of the PPDA which state that projects that have money in excess of $200,000 should be made known to the public. Socketworks project is to cost $500,000 (Shs910 million).

A memo from the University Secretary to the chairperson and members of the University Council dated June 14, said the service should have been advertised and competed for. "Council therefore agreed to first consider the University Strategic Plan in comparison with University ICT policy before considering the proposed Socketworks project," the memo reads. Despite this glaring flaunting of the law, the project is yet to be advertised.

The Department of Planning and Development of Kyambogo University wrote to the Council on June 14, 2007, recommending the authorisation of an agreement between it and Soceketworks having toured Makerere University Business School, where a similar project is being used.

"Council is hereby informed that a review of the Socketworks document has been done by the department of planning and development. Council is, therefore, requested to receive and consider the comments about the Socketworks project attached to this memo, and authorise the University to make preparations to enter into agreement with Socketworks Uganda Ltd to provide the service to Kyambogo University."

Although the Council has not yet approved it, student semester fees are to be increased by Shs40,000 per term if the Soceketworks' plan is adopted. The university has a student population of 11000, which means that in the seven years Socketworks will be providing services, the University would have forked out Shs6.16 billion for a Shs910 million project.

Socketworks is to provide service at an initial fee of Shs910 million after which its portion or subscription fee will be deducted at the source by the banks that receive school fees and sell online access cards. The University is to provide the space for the project offices and data centres.

The University Council is, however, uncomfortable with the proposed Shs40,000 increment and insists that "it should remain constant per year irrespective of a depreciation or appreciation of the Shilling against the Dollar, because university fees usually remain fixed for at least a number of years."

Bulenzibutto said, however, the decision on who will provide the service is yet to be made, adding: "Socketworks is an area we are considering because of the enormous benefits." He said although the council has read the planning department's recommendations, other alternative providers are being considered including MTN and Celtel.

Socketworks General Manager Meredith Bates admitted that contact has been made between the firm and the university. "We were told that the bidding will be done later this year,"she said in an interview. Ministry of Education publicist Aggrey Kibenge promised to furnish Daily Monitor with more information on the deal later today.

(Source: The Monitor)