By Julius Peter Ochen
On June 1st 2018, Parliament of Uganda passed a shs 32.4 Trillion budget for the Year 2018/2019. With more than 30% of this budget directly going for procurement of Works, goods and services, efficiency in public procurement and disposal of public assets is no longer a matter of confab since government has more than shs 2 trillion in disposal of assets.
However, the sight of rotting government vehicles, tractors, graders and motor cycles at district headquarters, Institutions of learning, Hospitals among others portrays the contrary. Our leaders and technical servants have ostensibly come to term with it.
This directly conflict with the principles of good governance which emphasizes apposite utilization of public resources. In fact it embarrasses the sitting government right in front of her citizens with insufferable level of exposure of combination of both incompetency and lack of patriotism.
Available statics shows that there is over shs 200 billion worth of government vehicles, motor cycles and graders ready for disposal. But seemingly, there is no plan whatsoever to do so.
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act of 2003 as amended in 2006, clearly provides for disposals of Public Assets. The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (Disposal of Public Assets) Regulations, 2014 No. 13 empowers accounting officers to each financial year, cause the public assets of a procuring and disposing entity to be reviewed, to identify the public assets to be disposed off. The regulation further empowers accounting officers to use the board of survey or user departments to identify public assets to be disposed off.
But why has government vehicles, graders and other automobiles continued to rot without attention? The following reasons partly explain the occurrence;
We do not have clear policy on when a motor vehicle or motor cycle should be due for disposal. Unlike the UNHCR disposal Policy which gives light vehicles a total lifespan of 5 years or 150,000KM in mileage, the Government of Uganda do not have such clear fleet management policy.
Secondly, nearly all the vehicles at DLGs, hospitals, learning institutions are procured by ministries (Ministry of local government, Ministry of health, ministry of education and many others). These ministries procure vehicles or motor-cycles and donate them to these departments of government but retain the ownership through log books. It therefore means that, the hospitals or DLGs only have right of use but not right of ownership. And since you cannot dispose what you do not own, the rotting happens.
Whereas the same law also provide that accounting officer can write to ministry requesting for authority to dispose an asset (vehicle in this concern), technical people at the ministries have defeated this provision through none response. They will never reply such letters (requests).
Thirdly, the inactivity of PPDA in regard to disposal of public assets; The procurement audit and investigations standard operating procedures demand that auditing institutions look at 60% procurement and 40% disposal activities and plans of the PDUs. Tactlessly, PPDA has concentrated on procurement deeds only. Ministry of Health for instance, can declare 1200 vehicles in their automobile assets; 80% of which are being used by other departments of government (health related schools, hospitals, health centres, local government and others). Ordinarily, there should be annual performance reports on the condition, values and performance of these vehicles and motor-cycles from where disposable items are marked. Seemingly nothing of this sort exists in government record and PPDA has not had competency to demand it.
Ministry of Education for instance, procures a school van, “donates” it to a school, but retain the log book, and make no effort whatsoever to ascertain value of the same after 5 years. The items continue to appear in the list of assets, without valuation report. PPDA makes no alarm year in, year out.
So what should then be the policy improvement?
The Government must develop clear fleet management guidelines giving lifespan to their flotilla with details of fleet category. For example; all 4W vehicles shall be driven for a maximum of 10 years from the date of its registration or shall be disposed of at hitting 300,000km in mileage. Any act contrary to the above should constitute to abuse of office, incompetency on the side of accounting officers.
Secondly, once a ministry procures a vehicle for a hospital, it must be compelled by law to pass both right of use and ownership. This gives such department of government ability to undertake periodic value survey for their assets and plan disposal accordingly.
The PPDA must intensify audit of disposal plan of the ministries to ensure that it incorporates annual inspection plan and reports of all assets listed in their books of account, but donated to other users.
In the event that all the above is unattainable, government should come up with regulatory framework to stipulate the time frame upon which permanent secretaries must respond to request for disposal from accounting officers from their line PDUs.
The writer works with MoICT and a student of Research and Public Policy at Uganda Christian University; Mukono.