That is when Museveni directed that Isabalija’s team be given full contract administration powers over the project. He also directed that the contractors be given a stern warning against doing shoddy work and the supervisor be instructed to withdraw the current management teams and deploy professionals. He also directed that an investigation is carried out on some on the faulty parts of the dam and new installations made where necessary.
Lastly, he directed that three officials at MEMD in charge of the project are suspended.
The letter is seen by energy sector players as a damming indictment against Muloni but especially Kabagambe Kaliisa, the all-powerful Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary, who has been at MEMD for the last 40 years.
For now, the President’s directives are either partially or not implemented at all.
The Independent was unable to get a comment from the technical team at the Energy Ministry the explanation as to why despite being in the know about the red flags, they kept a deaf ear.
The Independent has accessed several other letters, in which the lead supervisor Energy Infratech is writing to the contractors, Synohydro and CWE, raising concerns. In these correspondences, the supervisor, copied in the Energy Ministry officials. The letters flowed in almost every month since May 2014 until as recently as February this year.
“Sinohydro is constantly violating our instructions and we are concerned that this is not a desirable situation,” a May 9, 2014 letter to Kaliisa reads.
Velusamy Vasu, Energy Infratech’s boss also said that Energy Ministry officials had not responded to issues he raised against the contractors.
The supervisor complained that some “defects” were beyond “acceptable limits”, welding works were “unacceptable” and some joinery works “not recommended.” In other cases, the supervisor noted that the method of welding and repair was not submitted and approved. It also emerged that pre-assembly of the giant pipes, called draft pipes, that pump water to the turbines to ensure that maximum electricity generation had not been manufactured according to best practice. Whereas they should have been assembled at the manufacturer workshop before transporting, they are being welded on site and, as a result, are likely to be defective.
Critics say the alleged shoddy work on Karuma and Isimba; which have been President Museveni’s source of pride, is the latest window into how corruption and in-fighting been government agencies have for long plagued government and crippled its capability to deliver services.
When the officials from the ministry appeared before parliament on April 4, MPs first declined to approve the ministry’s 2016/17 budget until the mess is sorted.
Other critics say the projects were dammed from the way their contractors were procured. The procurement phase witnessed the worst in-fighting amongst different interest groups.
Different officials were lobbying for different companies and delayed the project for almost two years. When President Museveni met the Chinese President in South Africa in 2013, he secured financing and zeroed on contractors and hand-picked experts to do due diligence on them. The experts informed that Sinohydro was more capable as it had constructed about 60 percent of the dams in Africa.
In the end, President Museveni picked Sinohydro for Karuma and CWE for Isimba.
But following this controversial decision, government was sued in the East African Court of Justice by Henry Kyarimpa, a procurement consultant disputing the awarding of a contract. He lost the first round but when he appealed to the EACJ Appellate Division, court ruled that the government had disrespected its own law, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act.
In his recent report, Auditor General, John Muwanga also raised a concern.
“I noted that both Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contracts for (Karuma and Isimba) were directly procured contrary to provisions of the PPDA Act, 2003 which require international bidding for such contracts,” he wrote, “In the circumstances the fairness of the cost and quality of the works may not be guaranteed.”