Engineers caution against Karuma commissioning 

Thursday December 03 2020

A group of engineers during a guided visit of Karuma dam. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Rainher     Ojon

Engineers, under the Engineers Registration Board, have cautioned against the commissioning of Karuma Hydro Power Dam before working on defects that have been flagged by Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited. 

Speaking during a guided tour conducted by the contactor - Sinohydro Corporation and the project owners UEGCL, Dr Isaac Mutenyo, the Engineers Registration Board chairman,said testing and commissioning a dam with well-known defects shall turn out to be very expensive during the operation and maintenance. 

“It was good the non-conformities had been identified and they must be addressed in order for the testing to be done. The contractor and UEGCL need to work together and harmonise these areas as opposed to pushing the problem to defects liability period. All the critical non-conformities need to be properly identified and timelines for their corrections be agreed,” he said. 

The 600 megawatts hydro power dam was contracted to Sinohydro Corporation with works commencing on December 16, 2013. 

The works had been expected to be completed within 60 months but it is now 82 months and the contractor has reported that the project is at 98.5 per cent completion level. 

However, a number of non-conformity issues have been raised, particularly by UEGCL, the project supervisors, which have led to the delay in testing of the dam.


The team of engineers, which was led by Dr Mutenyo was assessing progress of works on the Karuma dam through a guided tour by Sinohydro and Project Coordinator Emmanuel Sande Nsubuga, who represented the Ministry of Energy. 

The engineers also noted the failure by government to complete the acquisition of land for the reservoir pools and transmission lines, which was also equally delaying the project. 

For such a project, Dr Mutenyo said, government should have completed land acquisition on time and handover vacant possession to the contractor, noting that even if works are completed, there would be losses incurred from failure to transmit power into the national grid.

The contractor has already applied for an extension of time with about 38 claims, with both time and cost implications, identified.

Unregistered engineers 

During the tour, engineers also found that Sinohydro employs more than 25 Chinese engineers, none of whom is registered by the Engineers Registration Board, which Eng Ronald Namugera, the board’s registrar, said put the whole project in danger. 

The Engineers Registration Act requires foreign engineers to be registered within a period not exceeding four months upon arrival in the country, wondering how the Chinese have been able to work on such a project without requisite procedures of the law. 

“Without scrutiny of their engineering qualifications and expertise, government cannot be sure of the expertise they bring into the country and hence the quality of the work they deliver at the Karuma hydro power plant,” he said.