By our reporter
Monday evening saw a group of social media users post stuff aimed at demonizing a company called NAWA Multi-Services Ltd which is based both in Busia and Kampala. It’s a clearing and forwarding firm and its one of the many that do handle the logistics clearing & forwarding function on behalf of the National Medical Stores (NMS). Based in Entebbe, NMS is charged with procurement, storage and distribution of medicines for all public health facilities owned by the GoU.
For about three years now, NAWA Multi-Services Ltd has been one of the firms that offer clearing & forwarding services for NMS relating to medicines logistics coming into the country. In October, the firm handled a huge consignment of medicines from Entebbe International Airport on behalf of NMS. The consignment that was cleared into the country included Covid19 rapid test kits, Magmax Viral Pathogen Binding Solution Kit, Oxygen concentrators, naval oxygen cannula twin, tubing oxygen supplies, throat and nasal swabs, gown fluid resistant disposable elastic wrisils, disposable face masks, safety goggles, disposable protective plastic face shields and respirator masks KN-95 rated among others. It was a large consignment consisting of several other medicines.
The clearing and forwarding company contracted a number of trucks to deliver the medicines from the Airport to NMS warehouses. The trucks included UAU 022W, UBA 881D, UAL 127R and UAF 996W. On arrival at the NMS stores, the consignment was disputed on grounds that less quantity was delivered than had been procured. And it was less by 7 boxes containing very expensive medicines whose value was estimated to be around Shs62m. This leakage was able to be detected because of the very effective internal control measures at the NMS warehousing facility. The officials at the Airport maintained they had passed on to the drivers the full consignment that was intact without anything being tempered with.
The drivers for the trucks NAWA Multi-Services Ltd had contracted couldn’t account for the missing boxes yet the client NMS insisted the same had to be accounted for and the attendant contractual breaches be atoned or made good by the clearing & forwarding agent who hired or contracted the cantankerous truck drivers.
This short-landing of the consignment entitled NMS not to pay the agent’s clearing & forwarding fees besides being required to pay up for the missing 7 boxes. As a result of this tight fix, NAWA refused to pay the truck drivers because they had already disreputed its name and put the company’s relationship with NMS into total jeopardy. Yet without being able to account for the missing 7 boxes, the truck drivers still demanded their pay of Shs200,000 each plus the Shs150,000 which they claimed had become payable to cater for the two days their trucks remained detained at the NMS premises before the medicines could be offloaded. In the end, the trucks were released but NAWA, the clearing & forwarding agent, remained with a huge loss of having to pay the Shs62m besides missing the Shs1.3m they were originally entitled to being paid for their services by the client.
Because the clearing and forwarding practice is that the goods must be received in “apparent good order and condition” for the client to accept them and issue you with the delivery order, which you use to invoice and chase for payment, the NMS rightly refused to pay anything to the clearing agent up to this day. The clearing agent, NAWA, has since October, been fighting with the very elusive truck drivers requiring them to account for the 7 missing boxes. The company hasn’t been successful because the drivers haven’t been easy to come by yet they have been insisting their Shs150,000 and another Shs200,000 for each must be paid for the work they claim to have done-transporting the medicines from the Airport to the government stores.
Along the way, as the company nurses its wounds (having to part with hs62m to atone the loss and paying the very menacing truck drivers), NAWA’s competitors learnt of the dispute and moved in to manipulate the truck drivers who have since petitioned the NMS management seeking for help in their efforts to recover the transportation fees which the clearing & forwarding agent rightly maintains they aren’t entitled to. There are fears that business rivals, having realized the three year contract is soon ending, are now out to discredit the company using the inappropriately disgruntled truck drivers for proxy purposes.
Ironically, instead of owning up and contributing towards a solution, the truck drivers (some of whom are supposed to be answering criminal inquiry questions relating to the circumstances under which the 7 boxes disappeared) have resorted to using social to blackmail NAWA Multi-Services Ltd by making false allegations aimed at discrediting the company out of business and into total collapse. The drivers are operating under the false hope that the client paid the clearing & forwarding firm for the work done whereas not on the account of the missing 7 boxes. In order to amplify their claim, the menacing truck drivers have resorted to manipulating colleagues at the Entebbe-based Victoria Savings & Credit Cooperative Society to which some of them subscribe as members.
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