HOW CAA E’BBE AIRPORT WORKS COULD SOIL CCCC’S REPUTATION
By Wafula Malik
China Communications & Construction Company (CCCC) has over the years had the reputation of being a good contractor who always delivers quality work and on time. Where they delayed to deliver, like in the case of the Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway, there would be exogenous factors to blame and not internal weakness. On Entebbe Expressway the delay resulted from the employer (UNRA)’s failure to complete compensation of the Project Affected Persons (PAP) on time. Yet that good profile CCCC has accumulated over time risks being disreputed if what appeared in Thursday Daily Monitor is anything to go by. Titled “IGG to probe Entebbe Airport Project,” the Monitor story referred to a whistle blower (a one Peter Oryema) who wants the IGG Irene Mulyagonja to intervene and save the tax payers’ money ($200m) which is on the verge of going to waste because of CAA’s ineptness and supervision consultant (Dar-Al-Handasah)’s failure to exhibit expected levels of professionalism and diligence. The $200m loan was offered to Uganda to expand Entebbe Airport which is under the mandate of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The ombudsman publicist Ali Munira confirms that the IG will be investigating claims that the CAA management and Dar-Ala-Handasah have acquiesced to let the contractor (CCCC) to get away with it. Domiciled in Lebanon, Dar Handasah is the world’s leading company when it comes to design and supervision of airport construction. CCCC is specifically accused of hiring low profile project personnel (including interns) from China to oversee the implementation of the project in order to cut costs and perhaps share the monies saved with CAA officials. The IGG will be investigating to establish whether indeed the CAA management is in bed with CCCC allowing them to hire personnel with improper qualification mix and inadequate experience (it’s their first time to participate in such a project) yet this is a very important project for the GoU. The whistle blower asserts that retention of inadequately skilled and inexperienced personnel means the project can’t be properly executed, a thing that increases the possibility of CCCC ending up delivering a final product of less than desirable quality. This, the whistle blower fears, will affect the durability of the project whereby to a naked eye the structure can look glamorous on the outside when what is inside can’t last the test of time. Industry watchers, who know the profile of Dar Handasah, are wondering how a supervision consultant of such global repute would overlook such major anomalies by CCCC on the airport expansion project.
The whistle blower says that by hiring inadequately skilled and inexperienced personnel, the contractor (CCCC) is taking advantage of the ineptness of the CAA management whose bosses curiously omitted to have a provision/schedule in the contract specifically stipulating the experience and profile key project staff must have. In the end, there are concerns the contract was designed poorly permitting CCCC to go for fresh Chinese University graduates because they are cheaper to attract and retain on such a project as opposed to the highly qualified and experienced personnel. The whistle blower urges the IGG to interest herself with why in contracts of that nature all the other government MDAs will put emphasis and set the expected minimum qualifications and levels of experience that the contractor’s project staff must possess. The omission is fatal and the IGG investigators fear it could negatively impact on the final product and more so its durability. One of the industry watchers we spoke to feared that the latest airport works would end up cracking faster than expected just like has been the case with the once glittering Kololo Courts near the airstrip which was built by and is owned by the Chinese-but has lately developed dilapidations. The airport is even a more sensitive matter because you are dealing with heavy aviation traffic that the new infrastructure is expected to support and withstand. Some of the personnel whose low profiling levels are being complained about include: construction engineers who plan and schedule the equipment, structural engineers who check the standard of the works being delivered, surveying engineers and materials engineers-all of whom are very critical to the project making the resultant anomalies fatal. On reading the Daily Monitor story, one of the MPs said: “Heads must roll at CAA because how on earth do you sign a contract without being keen on the profile and experience levels of key personnel the contractor brings on site? There must be criminal connivance somewhere.” To ensure the CCCC managers don’t dubiously transfer or switch personnel from other projects they are implementing in Uganda to frustrate the impending inquiry, the IGG investigators intend to demand for the staff qualifications and CAA recommendations to internal affairs ministry seeking issuance of work permits for them since they are all foreigners from China. “We shall be insisting on each engineer’s file regarding their qualifications, position held on the project and work permits as recommended by the CAA management,” said an official close to the IG investigations plan.