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PAC probes Isimba, Karuma dam rock payment omission

FILE PHOTO: Public Accounts Committee

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday tasked Ministry of Energy officials to explain the omission of payment for rock in the contract for construction of Isimba and Karuma Hydro Power Dams.

The officials led by the Permanent Secretary Robert Kasande and the Under Secretary Prisca Boonabantu were appearing before PAC to answer audit queries raised by Auditor General John Muwanga in his June 2018 report.

The issue by MPs over the non-payment for the rock by the contractors used in construction of the dam arose from an observation by the Auditor General who noted a number of ongoing court cases arising from legal suits by Project Affected Persons (PAPs) against the ministry. The legal suits relate to compensation for subsurface rocks amounting to 389.8 billion shillings as at 30th June 2018.

“Audit noted that an amount of Shillings 379.1 billion relates to compensation claims for land affected by the construction of Isimba and the amount of Shillings 10.75 billion relates to land compensation claims under construction of Karuma,” reads part of the audit query.

PAC Chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi tasked the Ministry officials to explain whether rock excavated by the contractors to aid in dam construction was budgeted for in the contracts.

Eng. Abdon Atwine, the Assistant Commissioner in Charge of Electrical Supply at the Energy Ministry said that the contract with the Isimba dam contractor was a lump sum contract where all natural building materials were derived from the project site. He said that the contractor extracted rock that he could use in the construction and he was not supposed to pay.

“The feasibility study recognized the availability of rock material and clay within the vicinity of the project site and dam location that would be excavated and used as construction material.  This informed the decision by the designers to have a dam structure of rock fill type with a central clay core,” further reads the document.

Asked about the amount of rock that was used, Atwine submitted to the committee a document indicating that the estimated total usage of rock to have been 4,381,500 metric ton.

Another document on Karuma Hydropower project indicates that to-date, the total rock excavated for the project equals 9,541,347.4 metric tons as at January 2019.

His submission sparked off queries with Nandala and Nansana Municipality MP Robert Ssebunya cross-examining Kasande on the contract.

President Yoweri Museveni in March launched the 183MW Isimba Hydropower Dam in Kayunga after five years of crushing rocks, laying concrete and embankments across the River Nile. The Dan is envisaged to ease power shortages in the country and accelerate the development of the economy.

Following Atwine’s explanation, Nandala questioned how the country was benefitting by giving rock-which is a major requirement in the dam construction as a free resource to the contractor. He wondered how the Energy Ministry omitted the cost of the rock in the contracts citing connivance to embezzle funds from the rock.

He reported that information reaching his committee indicates that part of the rock excavated was being sold out. Nandala said that there is a likelihood that government had lost 2 trillion Shillings from rock used for the two projects.

Nandala also spoke about allegations of some of rock excavated by the contractors at Isimba and Karuma having been sold out.

Kwania County MP Tony Ayo expressed surprise saying that one would expect that after doing a feasibility study and discovering that the rock was good for the dam construction then its cost would automatically be included in the contract.

Nandala directed that the Ministry submits contracts for the two projects to his committee so that a probe into the matter kick-starts and to ensure that those responsible for the omission are held accountable and also find a way for the money being paid.

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