Uganda’s generation and transmission firms UEGCL and UETCL have taken over administration of mega power projects Karuma and Isimba.
“Glad to inform that this morning I received, on behalf of @UegclP , the Deeds of assignment for Karuma and Isimba,” tweeted Harrison Mutikanga, Uganda Electricity Generation Co.Ltd (UEGCL) CEO.
The Karuma 600 MW and 183 MW Isimba dams have been in the news for several reasons in the past six months (read our analysis – click here).
“These projects have met some technical challenges, but we trust the contractor and we are confident they will sort them, ” Energy Minister Irene Muloni said at the handover in Kampala on Monday.
UEGCL states case
UEGCL officials have previously argued that they entered a MoU with the Energy and Finance Ministries, which made them the implementing agency. Apart from this, the loan being used to construct the dams is on UEGCL’s books meaning that it is them who will have to repay and not the Energy Ministry.
UEGCL have also charged that the Ministry of Energy is failing to supervise, is allowing shoddy work, and is leading the projects to over-shoot budgets.
UEGCL and Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (UETCL ) now have contract administration powers over Karuma and Isimba dams as directed months back by President Yoweri Museveni and parliament.
On Sept.27 a motion was tabled in parliament calling on legislators to push the government to take immediate and decisive steps to resolve the Karuma crisis.
More precisely, in that Sept 27 motion, parliament asked the Energy Ministry to hand over its administration powers for the Karuma and Isimba projects to UEGCL.
Previously, construction of electricity generation infastructure has been a dominion of officials at the Energy Ministry. Going forward, it will be UEGCL which is currently headed by Mutikanga; a quiet engineer who made his bones in management at the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, which will handle two hot potato projects.
Karuma under scrutiny
As The Independent has reported in the past, the Karuma and Isimba projects are under scrutiny because of the alleged substandard works, procurement corruption, lack of adherence to standard employee welfare issue – including lack of basic items like toilets, and the failure to include a local content component in the resources being used.
Multiple investigators both from abroad and within have confirmed allegations of shoddy works by the Chinese contractors. The most recent team led by Prof. John Sentamu, whose report was published this July, also confirmed the shoddy works and warned that if the defects, the management and supervision are not dealt with early enough, the durability of the yet to be completed dams, hangs in balance.
Doubts have been cast on the ability of Energy Infratech, the Indian-based lead project supervisor, to get China’s Sinohydro, the contractor, to fix cracks in the concrete works and other poor works.
In steps Kiggundu
President Museveni has recently beefed up the Project Steering Committee (PSC) by naming outstanding Electoral Commission chairman, Badru Kiggundu, and John Berry, who worked as General Manager of Uganda’s biggest power dam, Bujagali, as the Deputy Chairperson.
“The cardinal duty of this committee as envisaged under the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between MEMD, UEGCL and UETCL was to offer timely and strategic guidance to project implementation,” Museveni wrote, “It’s for this very reason that I have decided to strengthen it and beef it up with non-government officials, that is, the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson.”
Museveni said that the committee’s immediate task should be to streamline the projects implementation structure and the communication protocol and, to solve most of the pending technical and contractual challenges on the projects.