President Yoweri Museveni is considering suspending the construction of multimillion electricity generation dams at Karuma and Isimba because the contractors have continued to do shoddy work even when it has been brought to their attention.
In a letter to the minister of energy and minerals Irene Muloni dated 22nd March, 2016, the president revealed that he had “got disturbing reports that the work being done on the dams of Karuma and Isimba is shoddy because the 'owners' engineers' are either not serious or they have some other issues.”
The president in the same letter received by the ministry on March 23rd, 2016, a day later, goes on to explain that the contractors do not detect faults and do not insist on correcting them. President Museveni therefore demanded “prompt action” from the minister including considering to suspend ‘work until the defects are corrected,’
“My information for instance, points out that there is something known as draft tube, where the turbines are supposed to sit. These draft tubes should be assembled outside the hollow structures that are supposed to be their ultimate home and put in the hollows when they are able to align with the other parts. Instead, I am told, they are being welded in the hollow. i am told that is very risky.” Museveni writes.
“Mistakes are being observed at Karuma. The 'owner's engineers' are informed but they do nothing. I, therefore, direct you to, at once, confirm if these stories are true so that you stop further and more irreversible mistakes. If, for instance, concrete is poured over such defective structures, it will create an irreversible situation of having a defective dam and power house.
If it is necessary to suspend work until the defects are corrected, it should be done. The 'owners' engineers' could either be re-enforced or even dismissed. Re-enforcing them, at the minimum, would mean giving them other actors that to co-sign the completion forms before payments are made.” The president directs in the letter copied to the Vice President.
Karuma dam, according to ministry officials will be ready by December, 2018 when the six turbines will be up and running. The ministry officials, during a field tour this month at the Karuma construction site, noted that underground tunnels to access the power house that will generate about 600MW is almost complete.
Henry Bidasala, the commissioner electricity power development at the energy ministry said 30 percent of the construction work is done. Bidasala told journalists that excavation works of the Karuma hydropower project has been completed and that the contractors Sinohydro Corporation is at the stage of pouring concrete onto the excavated dam site.
But according to President Museveni's letter, much of this work is shoddy and a risk that will lead to loss of money and human life. Two Chinese firms, Sinohydro Corporation and China International Water and Electric Corporation were contacted to construct Karuma Hydroelectric Power Station (600MW) and Isimba Hydroelectric Power Station (183.2MW) respectively.
An Indian firm, Energy Infratech Private Limited was contracted to perform the feasibility study and supervise works at Karuma while a consortium consisting of engineering firms Fichtner (lead) and Norplan are in charge of Isimba through their sub-contractors Kagga & Partners, a local firm.
The estimate cost of constructing Karuma is put at US $2.2 billion while that of Isimba is valued to be $550 million. Both projects are funded through a loan government of Uganda acquired from Export-Import Bank of China. The two dams are scheduled to be commissioned in December 2018.
Karuma Hydroelectric Power Station is located at Karuma Falls on the Victoria Nile, at the present location of the Karuma Falls, in Northern Uganda on the highway to Gulu while Isimba Hydroelectric Power Station is located at the village of Isimba on the Victoria Nile, in Kamuli District, Eastern Uganda.
The procurement for the lead construction contractors were marred by corruption scandals that led to the delay of construction works to take off. And now talk of shoddy work risks suspension of the much needed projects considering the energy deficiency in the country.