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Chinese firm under fire over incompetency

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The Parliamentary Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry has called for the termination of the contract of Helmsman Quality & Technology Services Ltd (HQTS).
The China-based company is one of the six companies contracted by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to provide Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) services.
MPs on the committee, however, performed a due diligence visit to the company’s offices in Dubai and India and found that the company did not have offices there. It was also discovered that the company does not have offices in Uganda.
Committee Deputy Chairperson, Hon. Catherine Lamwaka, presented the committee’s findings during plenary sitting on Wednesday, 04 October 2023.
“The committee invited UNBS to respond to the issues, and recommended case by case on all six companies. Eligibility criteria was not followed in pre-qualification by the technical evaluation committee. UNBS should terminate the contract with the company,” she said.
The report further recommended that the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should investigate circumstances under which HQTS was awarded the contract, saying that the process was fraudulent.
The other companies that were contracted by UNBS to inspect and verify goods as required by World Trade Organisation are; Bureau Veritas Uganda, Intertek International Limited, Quality Inspections and Services Inc. Japan, TUV Rheinland Middle East and Societe General Desurveilance.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa differed debate on the report, saying that MPs require ample time to study the document.
“In two weeks’ time, let us have a debate on this matter and we conclude. I do not want us to lose focus,” Tayebwa said.
He also called on the trade minister to further investigate decisions undertaken by UNBS, saying that the regulatory body disregards directives from the line ministry.
“I saw a letter of your Minister, you had stopped the process then UNBS goes ahead and extends the contract for one firm and leaves out another firm. If they said the procurement process has a problem and these two firms are all part of the problem you identified, where are you basing to choose one company?” Tayebwa asked.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga, called for close supervision of actions taken on such reports.
“These are the kind of happenings that give actors with intention to defraud the motivation to go on. If we do not undertake citizen arrest in this space, the fraud will go on,” Mpuuga said.
The Minister of State for Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives (Trade), Hon. Harriet Ntabazi acknowledged that UNBS is faced with leadership challenges, which she said are to blame for such occurrences.
“UNBS [officials] was summoned to my office twice, we guided that since there was a matter before the PPDA Tribunal, UNBS should go back and re-procure two companies, not one. I will follow up why UNBS is not complying with the PPDA Tribunal recommendation,” she said.
Ntabazi added that the ministry will also meet the UNBS Board of Directors, saying that it was the Board’s decision to procure one company.
“The Chairman of the Board is insisting that a country can have one company to inspect, giving examples of Kenya and Tanzania. But let this be in good terms, well procured,” she said.

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