Govt orders Isimba dam contractor to fix 584 defects

Saturday September 18 2021

Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, the Energy minister, talks to Eng Badru Kiggundu, the board chairman of Uganda Electricity Generation Company Ltd, during inspection of Isimba hydro-power station in Kayunga District on Tuesday. Left is Mr Harrison Mutikanga, the CEO of Uganda Electricity Generation Company Ltd, and Mr Opolot Okasai, the State Minister for Energy. PHOTO/Stephen Otage


The minister for Energy has ordered the Chinese company constructing the Isimba hydro power station to rectify all the 584 defects detected at the plant before handing it over to government.

Speaking during an on-site inspection if ongoing work on the project on Tuesday, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa ordered China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE) to rectify the defects in the next six months.

“I am particular on commitments on projects. These are negotiated projects where implementation agreements are signed with time frames within which to be completed. We came here as policy makers to have a look at what we have,” she said.

Ms Nankabirwa said the plant should only be handed over to government when it is 100 per cent devoid of defects so that the contractor does not ask for more time extension to complete them and cause audit queries.

Mr Michael Elimu Esimu, the power generation manager at Isimba power station, told Ms Nankabirwa and her deputy, Mr Okasai Opolot, that since March 2019 when the plant was commissioned by President Museveni, they have identified 584 defects with the potential to stall the smooth operation of the plant.

Mr Esimu said within the defects liability period, which ends in March 2022, they have experienced four major incidents, which almost caused the shutdown of the plant.


“We want zero defects whether minor or big. We had a power house failure in October 2020, which lasted 10 days. On July 11, 2021 we shut down the plant to inspect the alternator coolers as part of the routine maintenance. We feel the design is not good, the excitation system failed,” he said, explaining that the excitation system is the heart of a hydropower station.

Mr Harrison Mutikanga, the chief executive officer of Uganda Electricity Generation Company, cited some of the defects as the generator circuit breaker for Unit One, which has been down for four months, a leaking roof whenever it rains, which is putting electric panels at risk, and leakages on concrete structures in the power house.

Other defects

He also cited the slow rate of constructing the reservoir slope to prevent landslides, and failure to erect a floating boom to protect the dam from water hyacinth .

He also named other 500 defects in electromechanical equipment.

Mr Vincent Otim, the UEGCL intermediate engineer, told the ministers that since April 1, 2019, they have covered 96 snags and recorded 775 defects and they have been able to clear 50 per cent of the defects.

Some  of the critical outstanding work includes producing manuals for project documentation, operation and maintenance, commissioning all the systems to confirm that they are reliable for use, constructing a floating boom, constructing roads to the visitors’ centre connecting electricity to the camp and rectifying the over 500 electromechanical defects which were identified.