Houses built in Karamoja by Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to give the local people a decent accommodation are now collapsing hardly six years after construction. It is screamingly obvious the houses are coming down this fast due to poor workmanship. About 80 houses were built in Nadunget Sub-county in Moroto District and Lorengedwat Sub-county in Nakapiripirit District in 2013 at a cost of between Shs12m and Shs17m each, according to the supervisor of the project. This translates into between Shs1 billion and Shs1.3b.
However, all this now appears wasteful expenditure whose outcome has also proved dangerous to human life. The houses were intended to move the Karimojong from the poor grass-thatched huts to more decent permanent houses to improve their livelihoods. The purpose was noble, but the outcome is disastrous.
The supervisor of the construction admitted that the poor craftsmanship is responsible for the collapsing buildings because they were built without a strong foundation and walls. This admission calls for strict accountability in the project execution chain right from the contractor to the supervising body or party. The OPM has a team in charge of supervision, monitoring and evaluation to ensure quality control.
What happened to all these layers of quality assurance checks? Who approved these houses and issued a certificate of occupancy? It would not be far-fetched to infer that bribes exchanged hands and the people responsible to ensure value-for-money were compromised, resulting in financial loss to government and exposing the beneficiaries’ lives to risk.
The culprits along the project chain must be held strictly accountable for their mischief. The fact that many of the houses have either collapsed or developed cracks, implies the problem is prevalent in the rest of the houses under the same project. The government should carry out an inspection on all the houses to establish their habitable status to avert deaths if more of these housing units come down as is likely to happen following the dawn of the rainy reason.
Further, a forensic investigation or value-for-money audit should be done to establish the extent of the shoddy work and the financial loss occasioned by this apparent fraud.
Taxpayers’ money should not just be thrown away like that. This appears to be part of the long running grand fraud scheme in OPM, where government has lost billions of shillings. Some culprits have been sent to jail for the plunder while other suspects are still battling their cases in court.
The culprits of the Karamoja housing fiasco too must face the same destiny. They must not be allowed to enjoy their loot with impunity. Upon the findings of the audit, the culprits must be prosecuted for corruption and be made to refund the lost money.