The construction of Aswa Bridge in Atiak Sub-county, Amuru District has stalled for more than two years. Construction of the bridge meant to Link Atiak Sugar Factory to its sugarcane plantation in Lamwo District was meant to kick off in October 2020 for a contract period of two years.
The government contracted Sobetra Uganda Ltd. in a joint venture with Otada Construction Company Limited to undertake the bridge works measuring 120 Meters long, 4 spans, and 12 meters high at a tune of 20.9 billion Shillings. The works were to be supervised by the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA).
Benson Ongom, the Director of Corporate Affairs at Atiak Sugar Factory, however, says that despite being paid 30 percent of the total project cost, the contractor abandoned the site just three months after setting its camp. According to Ongom, the delayed construction of the bridge is a major setback to the operations of the sugar factory now that the works are being transitioned from manual to mechanized operations.
Ongom notes that they had anticipated cutting down transport costs over a 250 km stretch from sugarcane plantations in Palabek Sub-county in Lamwo through Kitgum district to Gulu since it would only take 30 km using the bridge.
Bunty Seeruttun, the Director of Agriculture at Horyal Investment Holding Company Ltd says the completion of the bridge would significantly help in reducing the lead distance between the sugarcane plantation and the factory.
Seeruttun says lead distance carries a big cost in sugarcane harvest and production adding that there is a need to reduce it. “The more we want to be productive and efficient on our cost, the more we need to focus on our lead distance,” says Seeruttun.
Seeruttun however says some of the machines can’t be driven a distance of over 200km to a sugarcane plantation in Lamwo and emphasized the need for having the bridge worked on to cut down transport costs.
Allan Ssempebwa, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) spokesperson confirmed the delayed construction of the bridge and attributed it to the change orders of the contract by the government. He says initially, the contractor was meant to construct a road but a change of order was later approved to have a bridge included in the design.
In a letter dated October 12, 2020, UNRA Executive Director Allen Kagina, directed that funds originally meant for upgrading the Kaya-Yei road linking Uganda and South Sudan would now be used to finance the construction of the Aswa Bridge and Nyimur-Bibia road. The government had initially contracted Kark Technical Services Ltd for the construction of the Kaya-Gulumbi (40km) road at the tune of 18.8 billion Shillings in Lot 1 of the project and awarded 20.93 billion shillings to Sobetra Uganda Ltd, and Otada Construction Company Ltd joint venture for the construction of the Gulumbi-Yei road works (39.5 km) in Lot 2.
All the contracts for road works were signed on November 29 and November 20 2019 respectively. The government however approved a change of orders for the project and instead processed the construction of the 41 Km Nyimur-Bibia road in Lot 1 and Aswa Bridge in Lot 2 all with all contracts to take 12 months using the same fund. The bridge construction would entail the opening up of new bridge access roads, drainage works, earthworks, and full graveling of approximately 2 km.
Sempebwa notes that the contractor is already undertaking the design of the new bridge adding that there is also a need to demine the area in which the road will pass through since it was a former warzone. Atiak Sugar factory in which the government enjoys a 49 percent share and Horyal Investment Holding Company Ltd 51 percent majority share closed their operation in May last year due to a shortage of canes.
Recently, the government through the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) started supplying the Sugar factory with machines and equipment in a move aimed at mechanizing the operation of the factory that had been affected by successive fires. At least 50 percent of machines have already reached the factory site and they include heavy-duty trucks and tractors, excavators, graders, and sugarcane chopper harvesters among others-URN (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 041 4674611 or email us at email@example.com).