Mbale. Government stands to pay more than Shs300 billion in extra costs to purchase new road equipment from China after the one it bought was found unusable because it is too weak to do roadworks, officials have said.
This was after engineers across the country said most of the road equipment was lying idle.
“Although we appreciate that government made a good gesture to procure equipment for districts for construction of roads, the equipment does not construct roads. It is meant to do light work,” Mr Bernard Ayimani, the Yumbe District engineer, said on Wednesday during the training of all district engineers in road rehabilitation and maintenance at Mt Elgon Labour-based Training Centre (MELTC).
Mr Ayimani said the Chinese consignment included a dump truck, grader; wheel loader, excavator and a bulldozer.
The MELTC director of engineering and works, Mr Samson Bagonza, said government was in the final process of procuring additional equipment in the 2016/2017 financial year.
“Government is going to procure heavy equipment again from Komatsu in Japan for construction of district roads. This means that we are likely to pay more than $100 million (about Shs300b) we paid to China,” he said.
The assistant commissioner for district and community access roads, Mr Stephen Kitonsa, admitted there was a mistake in the procurement process because government wanted heavy equipment for construction of roads.
“That is why we have decided to go to Komatsu in Japan instead of China. Of course this means an extra cost to the taxpayer,” Mr Kitonsa said.
The Minister of State for Transport, Dr Stephen Chebrot, said government would ensure value for the taxpayers’ money.
“The new contractor is competent, professional and has the capacity to supply the heavy road equipment within the specified time. It is unfortunate that it is an extra cost to all of us Ugandans including myself,” said Dr Chebrot.
No action on maintenance
District engineers also said the Chinese government promised to establish six zonal service centres in different parts of the country to ease routine maintenance on the equipment, but nothing has been done.
“The China FAW Group promised to set up centres in Kampala and five other stations in the main towns to train local technicians, and also provide maintenance services but this has never been done as spoilt equipment lies idle at the districts,” said an engineer who preferred anonymity.
The equipment comprises 450 tractors, wheel loaders and trucks. They were bought through a 40-year soft loan to the Uganda by China.