Lamwo leaders fault OPM, contractor over negligence

A section of the cracked verandah of one of the new blocks at Agoro Seed Secondary School in Lamwo District. PHOTO | POLYCAP KALOKWERA 

Leaders in Lamwo District have faulted the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and a company, that was awarded a contract to build classroom blocks at Agoro Seed Secondary School, over cracks that have developed in the structures. 

In the 2018/2019 Financial Year, OPM under the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP), awarded Handy Services Limited a Shs600m contract to construct two blocks with three classrooms each and three drainable pit-latrine  blocks at the school.

 However, less than a year after the commissioning of the facilities, the blocks developed cracks on the walls and floors. 

The district authorities have blamed this on the substandard work done by the contractor. They also accused officials from DRDIP of not supervising the project and forging a completion certificate to access the contractor’s retention fund. 

In an August 29 letter to Mr Charles Otim, the DRDIP engineering assistant for the district, a copy of which this newspaper has accessed, the Lamwo District Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Mr Alex Felix Majeme, accused DRDIP officials of gross negligence of duty, and causing financial loss. 

“The verandah of two blocks of two classrooms in Agoro Seed Secondary School is not reinforced thus causing massive cracks. Failure to keenly observe this and draw my attention technically amounted to gross negligence of duty,” the letter reads in part. 

 Mr Majema said at the time the completion certificate was made, the verandah had already started developing cracks.  

In an interview with Daily Monitor on Monday, Mr Peter Fred Erwondo, the Agoro Sub-county councillor, said some construction committee members were bribed not to speak about the shoddy works. 

“At first, the contractor was complaining of the loose soil saying the soil in Agoro is not so good and we need to add some money. We talked to the council, which allocated another Shs84m. I am surprised that the cracks still persist,” Mr Erwondo said. 

Handy Services Limited has also been awarded the contract for the second phase of works worth Shs550m  

Mr Douglas Ochora, the deputy head teacher of the school, said he is afraid that the building under construction will suffer the same irregularities since their criticism has been ignored by the contractor. 

“If they have already witnessed the irregularities from the first project, I think this second contract wouldn’t have been given to this same contractor again,” Mr Ochora said. 

He added: “As a school, we were not involved in the construction committee. We would have raised the concern before the buildings were taken up by the school because we noticed the defects but it was difficult for us to intervene.” 

He said in case there are heavy rains, the roof may collapse and injure the students. 

On Monday, Mr Geoffrey Osborn Oceng, the Lamwo RDC, said the contractor has been paid the retention money and handed the certificate of completion. 

But Mr Majeme said: “For a certificate to be handed over, it must be signed by the CAO and that certificate doesn’t have my signature. So, I am investigating to find out how the contractor got the certificate of completion.”  

DRDIP, contractor reacts

Mr Denis Olara, the director of Handy Services Limited, said they are working to correct the defects in the building. 

“I have not failed to address it. I have invited engineers from the district and OPM so that we have a thorough analysis. You know Agoro is not a simple area. We are in the process of coming up with a recommendation which we shall put in place,” Mr Olara said. 

 Dr Robert Limlim, the director of DRDIP, told this publication in an interview that the district leaders are to blame for shoddy works, saying implementing the project is their responsibility. 

“We don’t implement it ourselves; it is the district and communities who have control of the payment schedules based on work done and completed,” Dr Limlim said.

 However, he agreed with the district that the engineering team failed to test the soil first before commencing the construction, adding that the defects will be rectified.

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