MPS, OGWANG LAUD UNRA AS HOIMA-BUTIABA-WANSEKO RD NEARS COMPLETION
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By Isaac Wandubile
MPs on Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure Committee and officials from Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) have expressed satisfaction with the progress of works on the project for the upgrading of Hoima-Butiaba-Wanseko Road to paved (bitumen) standard.
The road project, which is part of Package II of the Critical Oil Roads, is being undertaken by Chinese firm Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO) Ltd with a loan from China Exim Bank. It will cost about Shs630bn.
The 111km long gravel road situated in Western Uganda’s Bunyoro Region is part of the national roads network linked to the rest of the network by the paved Hoima-Lwamata Road (95Km) and the unpaved Masindi-Biiso Road (51km).
Situated in Hoima and Buliisa Districts and connecting Hoima town to the shores of Lake Albert at Wanseko, the road snakes through the sub-counties of Hoima Town Council, Kitoba, Kigorobya and Biiso in Hoima District as well as Buliisa and Wanseko in Buliisa District where oil exploration is ongoing.
Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO) Ltd is also expected to undertake the upgrading of Hoima Town Roads (4.4km), including Bujumbura, Rukutaro, Duhaga, Lagoon and Ginnery Roads. So far, relocation works for utilities have been completed and drainage and earthworks are ongoing.
Upon completion, the road, which will have a seven-meter wide carriageway and two-meter wide shoulders on both sides of the carriageway, is expected to improve the road infrastructure within the mineral and oil exploration zones, improve access to social and economic development opportunities along the route and boost livelihoods of roadside communities.
UNRA officials and Infrastructure Committee MPs were pleased to learn that the Chinese contractor had complied with the contract condition that requires the firm to sub-contract at least 30 per cent of the value of total physical works to local firms. “This requirement is being implemented and a monitoring tool has also been developed to ensure full compliance,” said UNRA Executive Director Allen Kagina.
The Roads Agency has also listed the firms currently engaged in compliance with the Local Content requirements. For civil works such as earthworks, drainage and pavement layers, Byola (U) LTD (Km 44+000 to Km 50+000, Km 55+000 to Km 69+000 and stone pitching), Kibibu Engineering Ltd (Km 50+000-55+000 and Butiaba Link 8km), Dynaco Engineering (18 Km of Geocell and Geogrid), Task tech Ugnda Ltd (Stone pitching), Berocan Construction and Engineering works ltd (Stone pitching), Gweri General Construction Ltd (Stone pitching), and Mortada Transporters Limited (Road Marking) have been offered contracts and are working.
For relocation of utilities, Archways plumbing Ltd (Water), Mantab Engineering services (Electricity), and BM Watsan Holdings Ltd (Boreholes) were subcontracted. Home Design Flowers Ltd was subcontracted for landscaping; Shell/ Vivo Energy Uganda and Toyota Uganda for the supply of fuels and lubricants; Toyota Uganda for the procurement of vehicles; Roofings Uganda Limited and Steel and Tube for provision of steel materials; while Tororo Cement and Hima Cement were subcontracted for provision of cement.
“In addition, all crushed rock and gravel material on the road are sourced from the Project Area as well labour except for key experts and skilled labourers that the Contractor could not easily find in the project area,” confirmed UNRA in its status report. On issues regarding the environment, monthly joint inspections headed by the environmental specialist attached to the in-house supervision team together with UNRA project engineer, safety officer attached to the contractor, contractor’s environmentalist, and sociologist are conducted to check on compliance with the approved Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP).
Also, the quarries are being monitored and wet crushing is being done in order to minimize dust pollution to the environment. Furthermore, all exhausted burrow areas will be reinstated according to approved restoration plans, while constant watering of the road is done to reduce on the dust pollution, and more efforts are in place to ensure the dust on the road sections and haul roads is subsided.
While the planned cumulative physical progress should be about 87 per cent, it is currently at 84 per cent. The contractor has so far used about 83 per cent of the money meant for the contract instead of 89 per cent. The project, whose works started in April 2018, is into 90 per cent of the amount of time agreed on. So far, 33.4Km of this road has been substantially completed and the contractor is expected to deliver the remaining part by January 2022.
“There has been some slippage attributed to impacts of Covid19 in terms of mobilization of resources, SOPs observation and reduction in the daily working time as well as delays in processing of Contractor’s IPCs by Exim Bank of China,” explained ED Kagina. “Recommendation was made for nine months’ extension of time and was approved to ensure that all the outstanding works due to the increased quantities and variations are completed.”
There has also been the challenge of China delaying the funds for the project, thereby affecting completion of the project. But ED Kagina has assured Ugandans that the Roads Authority will work with the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) to engage EXIM Bank of China to speed up the payments.
The rising water levels of Lake Albert, which resulted in floods that affected works along Butiaba Link and Wanseko, was also another challenge that hindered the progress of works. To mitigate this challenge, the design of affected road sections was reviewed while taking into account the flood impacts and the cost was managed within the approved contract sum.
Some works were also delayed by land acquisition challenges due to insufficient funds to pay Project Affected Persons (PAPs) in time. To mitigate this challenge, UNRA engaged the affected persons and issued letters of comfort confirming that payment would be effected in the near future. Fortunately for the UNRA team, most PAPs allowed construction works to proceed.
“Overall the project is progressing well, and the systems put in place have enhanced smooth implementation of the project. There is also a strong commitment to ensure that the works are completed on time despite the challenges highlighted above,” said an optimistic Kagina.
At the end of the inspection, State Minister for Economic Monitoring Peter Ogwang and Physical Infrastructure Committee Chairperson David Karubanga spoke at a status meeting where they saluted UNRA and its Management team for doing a commendable job. MP Karubanga even went ahead to assure the UNRA that he would push for the retention of the Roads Authority even as reports regarding the rationalization of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have suggested that UNRA would be on the chopping board. Karubanga and a good number of MPs on the committee say they cannot sit and watch such an efficient and effective agency getting disbanded.
Minister Ogwang said he dreamt of an even more efficient and effective UNRA that wouldn’t have its work affected challenges such as shortage of funds for projects. He further saluted Kagina for inculcating values such as honesty in her staff, most of whom hold positions where they could be easily compromised to cause Government financial loss in billions of Shillings if they did not have strong ethical grounding. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at email@example.com).