Isimba Dam contractor fails to fix critical defects 2 years later

Thursday March 11 2021

An aerial view of Isimba hydroelectricity dam. The contractor has not fixed at least 33 critical defects and hitches in the plant since its commissioning, two years ago. PHOTO/FILE

By Tobbias Jolly Owiny

China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE), the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for the Isimba Hydropower Dam, has not fixed at least 30 critical defects and hitches on the plant, two years after it was commissioned, Daily Monitor has learnt.

The government awarded the Chinese firm the contract for the $567.7m (about Shs2 trillion) Isimba project, which started in April 2015.

The project was then commissioned in March 2019 and is expected to generate an annual 1,039GWh (gigawatt hours) of electricity a year, once it achieved a substantial completion mark on March 31, 2019.

A March 31, 2019 takeover certificate was issued to the EPC contractor on April 12, 2019 alongside a list of 775 documented snags and outstanding scope of works.
The parties (government and contractor) agreed that the fixing of the defects be completed by September 30, 2019.

But a source at the Energy ministry, who is privy to this information but declined to be named since he is not the official spokesperson, says 33 of the 775 critical defects are yet to be fixed by the contractor.

The same figure is, however, quoted in the November 2020 Auditor General’s report, a copy of which the Daily Monitor has accessed.


Mr John Muwanga, the Auditor General Auditor General, pointed out that the progress of works was at 96 per cent and that only 33 critical defects were pending.

“As we speak now, key components that have not been worked on, include rectification of the leaking powerhouse roof, installation of a floating boom, firefighting system automation, completion of operation and maintenance manuals and as-built drawings,” he said.

Mr Muwanga said the delay was as a result of  absence of the contractor’s key staff who left the country and could not return due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions.

Other components include the construction of a visitor’s centre and helipad, and furnishing of the infirmary and lobbies.

We were, however, unable to reach the China International Water and Electric Corporation  by press time. 

The Isimba project is located on the Nile River, approximately 4km downstream of Simba Falls, Kamuli District.

Without boom lines, the dam risks being affected by the water hyacinth and floating islands, which could translate into national blackouts similar to those that were observed in April 2020.

Boom lines are designed to deflect or retain waterweeds and other vegetation to prevent debris from blocking the dam’s intakes as well as prevent clogging of the dam’s spillways and spill gates.

In their review of Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL)’s June 2020 status report, Mr Muwanga said the delayed completion of the snags had caused government additional costs.

He said: “It has resulted in increased time inputs for the owner’s engineer (OE) staff which has put a strain on the budget and reallocation of funds to the OE budget to allow for mobilisation of key staff to ensure closure of outstanding works and snag items.”

“For instance, the shilling component of the OE contract was exhausted in June 2019 and the dollar component stood at 98.42 per cent as of June 2020, and payment of high commitment fees due to undrawn loan amounts from the date of signing the financing agreement,” he added.

According to the report, government has so far paid commitment fees of $3,451,480 (about Shs12b) as of June 30, 2020.

UEGCL in the report said the contractor had embarked on installing a floating boom at Isimba after it mobilised key staff to return to the site after receiving government clearance over Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Speaking to Daily Monitor on Monday, Mr Muhammad Lubogo, the  UEGCL public relations officer, admitted that the contractor had a one-year defect liability period to fix the gaps but could not comment on the completion. He referred us to the dam’s project manager, Mr Chad Silas Akita.

However, when contacted, Mr Akita could not divulge details of the progress because he was on leave.