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MPs decry slow pace of key electricity projects

220 KV Mirama substation still under construction

Ntungamo, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |Members of Parliament have expressed concern over the delays registered in the execution of electricity projects across the country. They argue that procurement delays, change of contractors, and compensation issues are frustrating electrification programmes and keeping a sizeable population in darkness. 

The concern was raised by members of the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament who are currently visiting parts of western Uganda, to study the extent of power penetration in the areas of Masaka, Mbarara, Kasese and Fort Portal, among others. They are bothered that some projects which were launched in 2014  have not yet started.

Some of the projects that have delayed include the Mirama substation in Ntungamo district, the Bujagali-Tororo line which is the interconnector with Kenya, the line from  Karuma to Kawanda, Karuma- Olwiyo, Karuma- Lira, and the Tororo-Opuyo-Lira transmission line, among others.

The Bujagali-Tororo line whose construction started in 2015 was expected to be complete in 2018, but has been delayed due to issues around the right of way. Meanwhile, the construction of the Bujagali, Tororo, Mbarara and Mirama substation suffered a setback after the suspension of a contract awarded IsoluxIngenieria SA in 2017.

This was mainly because of the poor performance by the contractor  evidenced by poor supervision, site abandonment,  cashflow challenges and insolvency among others. Four new contractors have so far been signed to complete the pending works.     

Committee chairperson Keefa Kiwanuka said the pace has been slow for most of the electricity projects including substations and lines. Kiwanuka says that the delay means that the country will continue using old systems some of which are faulty and worn out. 

Uganda Electricity Transmission Project Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Stephen Kyeganwa Mukasa says now there are ten transmission projects in the country being worked on, six of which have commenced. They include Lira from Tororo, Karuma Interconnection project, West Nile connection to the main grid, while several others like the Masaka-Mbarara Project, regional interconnectors like to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to South Sudan and to Tanzania are yet to start.

He says that several challenges came along especially for the Mirama substation and this is expected to be worked on at least in the next three months. Mukasa cites issues such as COVID-19 as the main cause for delay now as they cannot import some hardware, while the international movement control and lockdown due to COVID-19 is another issue.

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