National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA- U) has come out to respond to false reports which appeared in the media on Thursday.
According to information purportedly obtained from a whistle blower working with a security agency, NITA- U an institution mandated to coordinate, promote and monitor Information and Technology developments in the country is about to cause a huge financial loss to government after awarding a contract to develop infrastructure to expand broad band access and use in Uganda to the highest bidder instead of the lowest.
The whistle blower alleges that Huawei a telecom company is a beneficiary of the project — Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP) – which will cost $75 million (Shs270 billion).
Also the bidding process which is still on going attracted six companies and among all of them Huawei emerged as the highest bidder.
And according to this kind of bidding, the lowest bidder should be the one to scoop the contract.
Against the backdrop of these allegations NITA-U has in detail responded.
In the said report, the whistleblower indicated that Nita charges $300 (Shs 1.08 million) on government ministries, departments & agencies and local governments per mbps, which is too high compared to what is paid in neighbouring countries like Rwanda where government pays $50 (Shs 180,000) per mbps.
That, according to Nita, is false.
“By the end of Financial Year 17/18, NITA-U plans to have connected 730 MDAs and Local Governments to the backbone.
There are currently 321 MDAs and Local Governments (LGs) already connected to the NBI (National Backbone Infrastructure). This means that more MDA/LGs will access reliable internet at a low cost, which translates into significant cost savings for the Government of Uganda,” reads Nita-U’s statement.
“NITA-U remains committed to digitizing Uganda by reducing the cost of internet connectivity, which is a significant barrier in encouraging the use of Internet across the country.
This effort has been deliberate and we are happy to have led the industry in reducing the cost of connectivity to Government offices by over 84% since 2010, when 1Mbps cost a government office $1200 to the current cost of $70 for 1Mbps.”
That aside, the Authority notes that there is a planned reduction in the cost of internet to Government offices that will take effect in July 2018; the charges will reduced further to $50 per 1Mbps.
In related achievements, since 2011, NITA-U has successfully completed three phases of the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI).
With over 2,400km of fiber laid across Uganda, a number of towns have been connected, these include Kampala, Entebbe, Mukono, Jinja, Bombo, Busia, Tororo, Mbale, Malaba, Kumi, Soroti, Lira, Gulu, Elegu, Masindi, Kyenjojo, Fort Portal, Kasese, Bushenyi, Masaka, Mutukula, Mbarara, Kabale and the Katuna Border Post.
Additionally, extension of the NBI is planned for the following districts in West Nile; Pakwach, Nebbi, Arua, Yumbe, Koboko and Adjumani.
Certification Services Contract irregularly awarded
As per The NITA- Act 2009 and The NITA-U (Certification of Providers of IT Products & Services) Regulations 2016, NITA is mandated to carry out certification of IT service providers.
But, according to the whistleblower, the IT regulatory agency awarded to Comtel Africa a contract to certify ICT companies that want to do business with government.
The company in question is owned by a former NITA-U board member, and it was allegedly allowed to take 80 per cent of the revenue it collects and only remit 20 per cent to NITA-U.
However, NITA-U says that CyberQ Consulting, an Indian company, is instead the one that won the deal and later on decided to partner with Comtel, a local company.
This was reached after an international bidding process, says Nita.
CyberQ are a global company with extensive experience with over 650 clients across 24 countries.
Furthermore, the Authority notes that “this procurement was carried out as per the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) rules with quality control at each stage to ensure all the bid requirements were met and the consequent award was considered compliant to the PPDA regulations.”
Explaining the part on benefits, NITA-U shows that “the procurement is turn-key in nature, what this means is that CyberQ/Comtel undertook to design, construct and implement the Certification of Providers of IT Products & Services.”
It adds, “This involves operational costs associated with running a full-functional certification office with salaried staff, tools of trade, office equipment, a lot of field visits across the country and other related expenses.
Therefore the revenue share between CyberQ Consulting and NITA-U took into consideration the nature of the project, turn-key.”
[If that explanation of turn-key up there wasn’t helpful, refer to this: a defined by Google: “of or involving the provision of a complete product or service that is ready for immediate use.”]
On comtel being owned by the board member, the agency says, “being a former board member of an institution doesn’t preclude one from participating in a commercial activity,” adding: “This would be unfair and unreasonable.”
The cost of construction of a manholes and buying is high The publication’s report shows that Nita “pays $1,200 (Shs 4.3 million) for manhole covers that the same supplier sells to MTN at Shs 400,000.” Nitsa insists “this is untrue.”
The Authority writes, “A simple check in the market will reveal that a transmission manhole is more than just a cover. Itvincludes culverts, a concrete cover, joint boxes (JB) to mention but a few.”
It adds, “Therefore to state that the cost would be Shs400,000 would not be a fair assertion.”
Below is a description of the transmission manholes that NITA- U builds:
Manhole and accessories:
Manholes are precast with a diameter of 1100mm (outer diameter) and 900mm (inner diameter), 200mm thickness.
The duct/pipe entry holes to manhole are placed at the bottom, 100mm from the base such that it lines up with the underground ducts.
The manhole base is 1300mm diameter and 100mm thick. The precast concrete top section is 1100mm diameter and 100mm thickness.
Accessories include cable bearer that holds the cable slack into one position.
1. The Manhole cover
The manhole cover is made of polymer, hard plastic branded with NITA-U logo. The Manhole cover constitutes of the ring, and removal cover. The ring is precast with the Manhole top section and the 600mm diameter removable cover is placed on top of the ring.
iii. Transportation & Installation
Precast manholes transported to site are placed in excavated pits (2m by 2m) with the top cover raised slightly above the ground or at ground level for roadside path ways.
The level of the base is made in such a way that the duct entry holes to the Manhole line up with the underground cable ducts.
Backfill material is placed around the ring and compacted.
(All information in italics got direct from the statement.)
Port switch charges
Responding to allegations that Government is being cheated in the procurement of Cisco switches, which NITA-U buys at $2,600 (Shs 9.3 million) as opposed to Shs 1.4 million on the open market, the Authority said:
“The contract for extensions to the NBI defines a Cisco 2960 24 port. This switch on the market starts at $2400.
A quick search on the internet would show this price.
“Costs for switches are determined by the functionality required of those switches. Just stating the number of ports is not enough to determine the functionality or the cost of a switch.”