Kampala. The row between ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) top bureaucrats and Uganda Energy Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) has culminated in an order from President Museveni to the sector minister Irene Muloni demanding prompt action.
In a March 22 letter seen by Daily Monitor, the president has tasked Ms Muloni to urgently look into the construction of the two hydro-power plants at Karuma and Isimba with a view of suspending the works to correct ‘risky’ mistakes and dismiss the consultant.
Indian firm Energy Infratech Private Ltd was contracted in 2013 by the Ministry of Energy to supervise the multi-million dollar works on behalf of government but the President now proposes they be dismissed for want of seriousness.
The letter copied to Vice President Edward Ssekandi reads in part: “I have got disturbing reports that the work being done on the dams of Karuma and Isimba is shoddy because the owner’s engineer are either not serious or they have some other issues.”
“They don’t detect faults and don’t insist on correcting them. My information for instance points out that there is something called a 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 wielded in the hollow. I am told that is very risky,” the letter adds.
The letter comes after a meeting between the President and UEGCL officials in which the latter laid evidence of shoddy work and inaction by the ministry and the consultant.
“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 the work until the defects are corrected it should be done. The owner’s engineer could either be re-enforced or even dismissed,” the president orders.
Following the letter, minister Muloni yesterday afternoon convened a crisis meeting at the ministry’s head office in Kampala that brought together all stakeholders including the two additional consultants (SMEC and A0 Consults) that UEGCL hired as a stop gap measure, ministry of Finance, Energy, UEGCL and Sinohydro officials.
Ms Muloni could not be reached for a comment by press time as she was held up in the crisis meeting.
Mr Velusamy Vasu, the chief executive officer Energy Infratech who jetted into the country this week to pursue an appointment with the President in early April and attend yesterday’s meeting, told this newspaper in an interview: “We are not worried because an independent technical third party will have to prove if there are technical flaws and who is not performing their role per the terms of reference of the contract. The letter is informed by what the UEGCL chairman told him but he should ask the contractor who is serious and who is not?”
This newspaper on Monday reported 30 per cent of the work at the two dams [Karuma and Isimba] had been accomplished.
Chinese firm Sinohydro is the contractor for the 600MW Karuma dam while China Water is constructing the 183MW dam at Isimba, both slated to be commissioned in December 2018 to bolster the country’s hydropower capacity.