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MPs divided over implementation of Entebbe airport upgrade, expansion project

The committee members pose for a photo with Joy Kabatsi, the minister of state for works (Centre), UCAA officials and the contrator at the new fuel farm. UCAA photo

Entebbe, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  The implementation of the upgrade and expansion project for Entebbe International Airport has generated mixed reactions among members of the Physical infrastructure committee of parliament.

This came during an inspection visit to Entebbe International Airport involving 14 of the 33 member committee. The project was planned to run in two phases. The first one running from 2016 to 2021 and the second ending 2023.

The first phase worth Shillings 1.1 trillion was driven by the rising number of passengers and cargo volumes handled at the airport and the need to improve customer experience, safety, security and comply with regulations. Before the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Entebbe Airport was handling an average of 70,000 metric tons of cargo every year up from 6,600 tons in 1991. 

Passenger numbers also grew from 118,527 in 1991 to 1.9 million in 2019. The first phase of the project covers among others the construction of a new passenger terminal building, cargo center, strengthening of the airport runways and their associated taxiways and rehabilitating three aircraft parking aprons. 

Eng. Henry Ngobi, the chief engineer at Uganda Civil Aviation Authority-UCAA told the committee member during their oversight visit that at least 79 per cent of the project is complete. He said the project executed by China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) is expected to be completed on May 05th, 2021. 

He noted that strengthening of runway 17/35 is complete while works at runway 12/30 are at 98 percent and the strengthening works for apron 1 and 2 are above 80 percent. 

Ngobi noted that the construction of the new cargo center is at 90 percent. The centre is expected to handle 100,000 tons of cargo every year. It will also have house cooling facilities, auxiliary business outlets and a freight forwarder’s parlour. It is projected that the cargo volumes will increase to 172,000 tons by 2033. 

Apron 1 has been resurfaced and additional parking space constructed. The additional parking space has been equipped with floodlights and a fuel hydrant system connected to the new fuel farm constructed 2 kilometers away from the current passenger terminal. 

The fuel farm and fuel hydrant system, established by a private developer, Tristar, is complete. The fuel farm has the capacity to store 22 million liters of fuel, up from the current capacity of 10 million liters.   Ngobi says operators consume 10 million liters a month. However, Ngobi says the construction of the new passenger terminal has not kicked off and stands at 5 percent because its design has been done.

The works on the new passenger terminal building have stalled because it will result in the demolition of the existing import cargo facilities, adjacent to the old passenger terminal. It will have, among others, three aerobridges and a new baggage handling system, bringing the total number of aerobridges at Entebbe airport to five. 

Robert Ssekitoleeko, the Committee chairperson says that he is impressed by the progress of the project, adding that there is value for money. The committee approved the allocation of Shillings 149.6 billion to UCAA in the financial year 2020/2021 as counterpart funding for the project. 

From this money, UCAA was also able to put up measures to combat the spread of coronavirus-COVID-19 such as opening boarding lounges by removing partitions, installing automated flushing system  in the men’s toilets and non-touch taps and sanitiser dispensers.  Ssekitoleeko, who is also the Nakifuma county MP, says he is satisfied with the works at the airport.

However, Bunyole West MP, James Waluswaka and Emmanuel Ssempala Kigozi are not contented. Ssempala has called for an engineering audit of the project. Last month, the Auditor General deferred the engineering audit for the project in 2019/2020 financial year.

Waluswaka says the women’s toilets should also have automated flushing systems and variations for some of the works. 

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