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We blocked Minister, MPs for safety reasons-Lubowa hospital investor

Committees on Health and National Economy, together with the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng and Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine denied access to the construction site OF ISHU. PHOTO via @Parliament_Ug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Finasi/ROKO Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) has explained why security turned away members of parliament and health officials from touring the construction site of the proposed International Specialized Hospital Uganda-ISHU.

On Tuesday, a group of legislators from the National Economy Committee accompanied by the Health Minister, Jane Ruth Aceng and Permanent Secretary, Diana Atwiine setup to inspect the  construction site of ISHU along the Kampala-Entebbe Road but were turned away by armed Local Defense Unit-LDU and Police personnel.

The MPs had sought permission from the Health Ministry to visit the site.  However, they found the gate to the site sealed with a grader and a pickup truck parked at the entrance of the facility, which is fenced with green iron sheets without the inscription of FINASI/ROKO SPV like the case was before.

The Police officers and LDUs told the legislators that they were under instructions from their bosses not to allow them to access the site, which seats on 30 acres of land. Irene Ochwo, the Public Relations Officer Finasi/ROKO, says the unfortunate incident was caused by the lack of appropriate notification to the SPV team regarding the intended visit.

The statement notes that it is critical procedure at all construction sites that health and safety measures must be sufficiently adhered to at all times for all persons, including visitors, as there are heavy moving equipment and machinery on site and open trenches among others that are potentially hazardous to human life if not well managed.

“This requires proper planning and safety measures to be taken prior to admission of members of the public into the site. This is an industry practice as well as standard operating procedures for construction of a site” the statement reads.  The statement notes that SPV requires prior reasonable notice to prepare health and safety gears and apparel as well as conduct health and safety induction for the visitors.

“It is common knowledge that if any personal injury or other damage occurs on the site, responsibility for such injury or damage falls squarely with the contractor,” the statement reads. Finasi international FZC also says it would have been helpful to know the purpose and length of the visit as well as the number of visitors so that the required apparatus are availed ahead of time.

They have asked Ministry and MPs to notify them earlier if they are to go for a visit to the facility. “It is hoped that the Ministry of health as the Owner of the project can give adequate notice for the next visit so that adequate arrangements can be made,” reads the statement.   SPV says they are committed to completing the hospital within the specified period of time.

In a an August 2, 2019 letter to the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, the Finance Ministry, Permanent Secretary, Keith Muhakanizi, said Government has no powers on the site since was handed over to the contractor. He noted that the case of Lubowa hospital is already before the court and any interference is subject to contempt of court.

Early this year, Government approved a loan guarantee of US$379 million for Finasi/ROKO for the construction of a Specialized Hospital. However, the project has been marred with controversies. Recently, ROKO, one of the project partners, said that it was being unfairly kicked out in favor of a new company, Power China Guizhou Engineering Co, Ltd.  ROKO has since run to court seeking to reverse the decision by FINASI international FZC chaired by Enrica Pinnet.

Mark Koehler, the Director Roko, says no other companies other than FINASI, ROKO or FINASI/ROKO and its affiliates can be subcontracted work in the hospital of more than 15 percent based on their contract.  It is on the basis that the MPs sought to visit the site.

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