Roko locked in pay row over Parliament project

Tuesday April 16 2019

Works.  Ongoing construction works at the new

Works. Ongoing construction works at the new Parliament chambers. PHOTO BY ALEX ESAGALA 


Kampala. Roko Construction is locked in a wrangle with another company for unpaid works done on the new Parliament Chambers and the matter has gone to the President for intervention.

Roko Construction Ltd and Roko Construction (Rwanda) Ltd sub-contracted Marvel Technologies to do electrical works at the new Parliament Chambers on September 29, 2017 at Shs19.9b. Roko was supposed to pay Marvel Technologies a deposit of Shs997m.
Marvel Technologies says it has done the work as contracted but without any advance payment as initially agreed in the contract and Roko has refused to pay.

Mr Marx Mailz Lubadde, the director at Marvels Technologies, yesterday told Daily Monitor that immediately after signing the contract with Roko, they were denied space at the site where to keep the materials they had purchased. Instead, they were told that they did not have the capacity as a local company to execute the work for which they were subcontracted.
“We went on site after signing the contract but Roko denied us a room to keep our things,” Mr Lubadde said.

First petition
Marvel Technologies subsequently petitioned President Museveni. On May 4 last year, the President wrote to Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, saying local engineering companies with the requisite capacity should be supported to do work.

“The country should support local engineers to further enhance their skills and develop capacity in such works by undertaking big assignments. If they have the required expertise and experience, they should be cleared to carry out the work. They should not be edged out because there are other competing companies which are more experienced,” Mr Museveni wrote to Kadaga.

Following the President’s letter, Mr Lubadde said they were then given space at the site where to keep their materials and immediately commenced work.
However, the company says Roko refused to pay them for the works done.

“To date, Roko has failed to give us advance payments. We have asked them why and they said the consultants were not ready to work with us. We have been working on site and the supervisors have been clearing our work,” Mr Lubadde said.

He added: “It is a total breach of contract. We have written to Roko several times but they have not responded. We have invested so far Shs1.6 billion. We have thought about taking legal action. But we want to first do everything we can to save the situation. This is a national building. It is our building. There is something happening behind and we don’t understand it. Most of our suppliers are not ready to continue supplying us. Roko is frustrating us.”

Seven months after they started work, they received a letter from Roko, informing them that another company, Messrs Studio Fifty Four Co Ltd, had been recommended as the best evaluated bidder for the procurement of specialised works for which specialised input was required and would include central control IBMS, kitchen equipment, public address system, congress system, Umeme and telecommunication services amounting to Shs17.8 billion.

“An evaluation report on the provision of specialised design services was made by the consultants. Messrs Studio Fifty Four Co. Ltd was recommended as the best evaluated bidder for the procurement. We notify you of the changes and an addendum to the above subcontract will be shared for your signatures to enable the contractor expedite your advance payment certificate and payments accordingly,” Mr Willie Swanepoel, the operations manager, and John Bosco Adroni, the senior quantity surveyor, wrote on behalf of Roko.

However, Mr Lubadde questioned how another company was selected months after signing the contract with Roko following their August 9, 2017 advert, specifying all the specialised works for which his company satisfied and Roko awarded them the contract.

“Can you imagine since 2017, someone is not ready to give you an advance and you are on their site! They are now telling us to do work for Shs2 billion but we don’t have a contract with them of Shs2 billion. We are not ready to take it,” Mr Lubadde said.
Roko Managing director Mark Koehler insisted they paid Marvel Technologies all that was due to them, an allegation Mr Lubadde dismissed.

However, Mr Koehler could not tell how much they paid Marvel Technologies.
“I don’t know how much. It is not correct that we owe them Shs19 billion. We paid them whatever is due to them. We have explained to them but they are not understanding for various reasons. The Prime Costs sums have not been evaluated. How can we pay them? It is not possible,” Mr Koehler said, promising to send us more information by email.
However for three days up to the time of filing this story, he had not sent any additional information despite reminders.

Roko challenged
Marvel Technologies management challenged Roko to prove it paid them any money on the Parliament project.
In addition, Mr Lubadde wondered why Roko was questioning their competence yet it has previously contracted them for electrical works on other projects at Kanombe International Airport, Umuganda Stadium and Bisate Lodges in Rwanda.

Mr Lubadde said they are working with Roko to do electrical installations at Mbarara Central Market and Uganda Hotel Tourism and Training Institute in Jinja.
He said the payment that Roko is referring to is in respect of those projects, but not work on Parliament Chambers.

“We have not seen money for the Parliament project. We have written to them many letters. They want us to make losses. If they want us to leave, let them be open and cancel the contract, we show them what we have spent and the losses, they pay us and we leave. We have worked with them on other projects and have other running projects in Mbarara and Jinja for the same works,” Mr Lubadde said.

Firm runs to Museveni

Marvel Technologies has petitioned the President again, asking him to intervene to prevent government from losing money in legal battles in court.
“Roko Construction altered the subcontract and removed specialised works worth Shs17.8 billion without our consent. We believe this unfair treatment by the main contractor is only to frustrate and taint us as incompetent so that we are thrown out which will lead to legal battles causing delay on the project and financial loss to the government… We seek for your intervention for fairness and normalcy to prevail,” Mr Lubadde wrote to the President on April 5 and the letter was stamped “received” three days later by the President’s office.