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UGANDA: Isimba dam contractor runs out of funds, pleads with MPs

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PHOTO: Construction works at Isimba dam – Image may be subject to copyright

Written by URN for THE OBSERVER

The Isimba hydropower dam contractor has asked parliament to compel government to release Shs 154 billion it is holding.

The ministry of Energy and the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) is holding out Shs 154 billion for the contractor, China International Water and Electric Corporation Ltd (CWE) until the construction of the bridge is completed.

CWE was meant to construct a bridge on top of the 183MW Isimba hydropower project at $568 million but the bridge that was constructed was rejected by government. The contractor then agreed to construct the bridge downstream River Nile at its own costs.

But now the company is complaining that the cost of constructing a new bridge across the Nile is getting expensive and is requesting for additional funds from government.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee on Physical Infrastructure chaired by Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko on Wednesday, Xia Nenghai, the project manager Isimba dam said that they are facing financial difficulties and have been forced to secure a loan of $15m from a commercial bank in Spain to pay the suppliers, labourers and engineers.

He says the bridge being constructed downstream of 800 meters is now halfway complete and will be completed in December at their own cost. He says they cannot abandon the project as they risk losing over $51 million in performance security and retainage money.

When the committee asked him about the Shs 24 billion that speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga said had been ‘chewed’ by corrupt government officials, Nenghai distanced himself from the whereabouts of the alleged missing money.

The committee which is now finalizing on its report before it presents it to the house will probe the ministry of Finance.

SHS 1BN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT

Meanwhile, MPs questioned government’s decision to spend Shs 1 billion on an environmental impact assessment on the construction of a bridge at Isimba dam.

Officials from the ministry of Energy led by minister Mary Goretti Kitutu were on Tuesday appeared before MPs to answer queries of the missing Shs 24 billion meant for the construction of the bridge at Isimba dam.

The parliamentary committee on Physical Infrastructure chairperson, Ssekitoleko was shocked to find out that despite the bridge being under construction, government was still conducting an environmental impact assessment meant to evaluate the likely environmental impacts of the project.

Suzan Lakot Oruni, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) representative questioned why funds are being wasted to do an assessment, and yet the project was already being implemented.

“It is common sense that this has to be done before any work, but it appears there is something being hidden by the technical staff. It appears there is something they know. Can we kindly ask…what is it that they are trying to hide? The environmental impact assessment was not done and is being done now when construction work is going on. Even to a layperson, in villages when you intend to construct a pit latrine you first locally look around, look for water points in that area before you begin constructing that pit latrine.” said Oruni.

Ministry of Energy permanent secretary Robert Kasande says that although the assessment had been done for the entire Isimba project, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) asked them to do another assessment for the construction of the bridge upstream.

James Waluswaka, the Bunyole west MP questioned what will happen if the assessment conducted reveals that a dam cannot be constructed in the area.

“Supposing NEMA’s report says that bridge will be very bad for the environment. What will you do for that money which the contractor has already invested, honorable minister. Supposing NEMA comes and say we want to wash our hands.” said Waluswaka.

Kitutu apologized to the committee saying it is unfortunate but promised to rectify it.

“I think an environmental impact assessment is supposed to be done before the project, and secondly, an environmental impact assessment is not done when something is already ongoing, you don’t do it as a way of trying to correct or accommodate it. So I think this was an error that we should own as government. It was an error and I think as a minister, I have to see that even when the project is going on, I have to see that no adverse effects, especially on the environment, occur.” she said.

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: February 15, 2020 at 10:44AM

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