The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama has insisted that local firms from Uganda do not have the capacity of printing the ballot papers for the 2021 polls despite their claims to handle the project.
Byabakama told journalists at the EC headquarters on Thursday October 29, 2020, that the Commission is in fresh discussions with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) to allow them give tender to foreign countries to print the ballots papers in time and in the “most convenient and unsuspicious manner.”
It should be noted that between November 2 and 3 next week, the Electoral Commission will conduct the final nominations of presidential candidates to add on the list of the Members of Parliament, Mayors, District Chairpersons and Councilors who were cleared this month.
As such, Byabakama said, the printing of the ballot papers must be done fast as the election period draws closer.
Six local printing companies; Picfare industries Ltd, Graphic system Ltd, Inline Printing Services, Multiplex Ltd, Wave Media, New Vision Printing Services and Hi Tech Graphics Ltd dragged the Commission to PPDA after it neglected their bids for ballot printing valued at Shs 41bn.
The EC awarded the contract to foreign companies of; Tall Security printers (UK), Uni print (South Africa), United printing and publishing (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Adare Sec Ltd (UK) and Al Ghurair printing and Publishing Company (Dubai), at a total sum of Shs 81bn.
PPDA on Wednesday this week ruled out that it was bad for the Commission to sideline local companies yet the government is promoting the Buy Uganda Build Uganda policy (BUBU).
“It is not a mere sentimental under taking but a question of capacity and in our assessment, our technical team assessed that there is technical incompetence in some of our local printers in the area given the high numbers, value and the time element. Remember we are approaching the timeline which has been restricted by COVID-19 and that is why we said let the printing be handed over to the foreign entities not Because we are not supporting government programs but because we are handling a delicate item,” Byabakama said.
“The Commission cannot afford to have any delay in printing of ballot papers. Remember, any delay pushes the Commission in a situation of non-compliance with Article 61(2), where elections must be held within a specified time frame and that is why the Commission chose to sideline the local firms but PPDA ruled otherwise. We are in further discussions to make sure that this is sorted, we cannot afford to delay anymore,” he added.
Byabakama noted that although local firms got the favor of PPDA, awarding them contracts to print the ballots is next to impossible.
A section of opposition leaders have since clashed over this issue with some supporting local firms to print while others say it will promote vote rigging.
Maj. Gen Mugisha Gregory Muntu, the presidential candidate of the Alliance for National Transformation party expressed concerns that once ballot papers are printed from here, votes will be rigged right from the printing venues, while Muhammad Nsereko, the incumbent Kampala Central legislator said that whoever does not support local firms to print ballots is an enemy of Uganda’s development.