Shoddy work, graft claims mar DRDIP programmes

Deputy Inspector General of Government Patricia Achan Okiria (2nd left), and officials from the Inspectorate of Government and OPM inspect a DRDIP programme in  Madiopei Sub-county  in 2021. PHOTOs/TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY 

What you need to know:

  • In responding to the AG queries, OPM admitted that the procurement of the service providers was undertaken by OPM without the involvement of the communities. 

In Late 2021, two new classroom blocks were built and commissioned at Agoro Seed Secondary School  in Lamwo District.

The blocks were constructed by Handy Services Limited. The company was expected to construct two blocks of three classrooms, and three blocks of five-stance pit-toilets at the seed school.

Handy Services Limited was given Shs600 million for the projects in the Financial Year 2018/2019 by the  Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) under the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP).

But a year after their commissioning, Lamwo District authorities have cited cracks on the classroom blocks. 

In an August 29, 2022 letter, Lamwo District Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Alex Felix Majeme, accused Mr Charles Otim, the DRDIP engineering assistant for the district of gross negligence of duty which has caused financial loss.

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

Mr Majeme added: “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.”

However, Mr Denis Olara, the Director of Handy Services Limited, at the time, said that 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 so we are in the process and we come up with a recommendation which we shall put in place,” Mr Olara said in September 2022.

The contractor (Handy Services Limited) has also been awarded the contract for the second phase of the projects worth Shs550 million.

Sources said the overall implementation of the project has been slow and marred with issues including procurement irregularities, possibility of ghost projects and negligence by both the DRDIP team and the contractors, among others.

For example, a 2022 internal report of OPM on DRDIP indicates that up to three unapproved sub-projects were executed in the same district worth Shs2.77 billion contrary to the DRDIP Operation Manual, 2019 which requires the approval of all subproject proposals by OPM.

Citing the construction and fencing of a community resource centre at Palabek Gem Zone, the report also hinted that, OPM auditors during an inspection learnt that the centre and pit-latrine were not in existence. 

The report also cited procurement irregularities for a Shs250 million sub-project in Yumbe District in which the contract was given to a company that lacked capacity and later abandoned the work.

In the West Nile districts of Obongi, Arua, and Terego, another 99 procurements worth Shs4.64 billion were carried out by the OPM (DRDIP team). 

According to the DRDIP Operation Manual, 2019, sub-project community procurement committees must be established and approve contractors.

However, the OPM internal report noted that its officials rejected some contractors approved by the community committees and contracted companies without consent from the communities. 

In the implementation of infrastructure sub-projects funded in 2018/19, 2019/20, and 2020/21, the OPM report indicates that Shs2.75 billion meant for 66 subprojects in Obongi, Arua and Terego districts were not utilised. 

The government through the OPM, is implementing DRDIP in response to the social, economic, and environmental needs of the host communities and the displaced (refugees and returnees).

The programme aims at improving access to basic social services, expanding economic opportunities and enhancing environmental management in 15 refugee-hosting districts across the country. 

During the Financial Year 2021/22, 15 refugee-hosting districts were allocated Shs211.9 billion from the Central Government to implement various activities under DRDIP. 

OPM released Shs142.86 billion and it was disbursed by the respective districts to 192 sub-projects for construction, rehabilitation, or expansion of basic social services such as education, human health facilities; and economic infrastructure such as roads and market structures.

However, in his 2022 consolidated report to Parliament, Auditor General John Muwanga queried the implementation of some of the projects. 

Mr Muwanga said OPM did not avail any document in support of the existence of the community centre and fencing at Palabek Gem Zone one projects. The details for the projects were also absent on DRDIP’s management information system.

Mr Muwanga said: “Shs800 million was recovered from an individual who had irregularly withdrawn funds from the subproject account between November 9, 2021 and April 30, 2022.”

He also said OPM did not provide documents regarding the existence of the Shs1 billion Sludge Drying Beds subproject for the management of fecal matter plus a 1km access road for the Palabek Refugee Settlement.

Mr Muwanga also pointed out that, for the construction of a dormitory at Paluda Secondary School and fencing a school  in Palabek Ogili Sub-county  for a total of Shs555.5Million), OPM failed to produce evidence of the existence of the projects.

Audit queries
The Auditor General said construction activities for 182 sub-projects that received Shs135.41 billion in 15 districts had not commenced. They were funded by the end of the Financial Year 2021/2022. 

Only four sub-projects that received Shs1.4 billion in Arua and Koboko districts were progressing at the end of the same year while contractors for six subprojects who received a total of Shs6.054 billion in Kamwenge and Koboko districts had fully implemented the projects by the end of the financial year. 

However, by the close of that financial year, all activities under the sustainable environmental management component had not commenced in all the 309 sub-projects in the 15 districts even though OPM released Shs19.703 billion.

In examining sub-projects funded in FY 2019/20 and FY 2020/21, the Auditor General’s report shows that of the 85 infrastructure and sustainable environment sub-projects, 32 infrastructure sub-projects valued at Shs11.44 billion had not been put to use by the communities, by the time of inspection.

“These sub-projects included, Morta Bridge in Yumbe District which had no access road, out-patients departments, among others, 179 sustainable environment subprojects valued at Shs9.949 billion had stalled and 70 other subprojects worth Shs3.35 billion had not commenced due to ongoing investigations by the IG [Inspectorate of Government].”

Under the livelihoods programme, OPM released Shs29.78 billion that was subsequently disbursed by 13 districts to 668 sub-project groups for small businesses, skills-based jobs, and service enterprises. 

However, a review of the progress reports revealed that 307 sub-projects groups that received Shs12.84 billion in eight districts had not commenced.

OPM response
On Tuesday, Mr Joseph Olanyo, the DRDIP communication officer, declined to comment on the hurdles the project faces, stating that all official media comments were limited to the programme’s director, Dr Robert Limlim.

By press time, Dr Limlim had not responded to our repeated calls for a comment on the matter.

However, in responding to the AG queries, OPM admitted that the procurement of the service providers was undertaken by OPM without the involvement of the communities. 

OPM also promised to institute an investigation into the transfer of funds for the design and construction of sludge drying beds and the construction of a dormitory at Paludah SS, Mr Muwanga said in his audit report.

The accounting officer of OPM explained that the funds for constructing the community centre and fencing at Palabek Gem Zone One Block 1 are under investigation by the IG.

On April 26, the IG re-launched the construction of community centres and fencing zone 1 in Palabek Refugee Settlement under DRDIP after recovering Shs800 million of the Shs1.2 billion project sum.

The deputy Inspector General of Government, Ms Patricia Achan Okiria, at the time said the project had been hindered by corruption.

“This money had been stolen by individuals from OPM, the Inspectorate of Government was able to recover the money and we are now launching the project so that this money can be put back to good use,” Ms Okiria said.

Mr Osborn Oceng, the Lamwo resident district commissioner,  urged the OPM  to be stringent with the staff.

“We call upon the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to always be strict with their individuals because most of these scandals you hear are because of individuals who do not have the heart of the Office of Prime Minister.’’

Mr Sisto Oyet Ocen, the Lamwo District chairman,  said: “Political leaders in the district must be keen on monitoring such projects otherwise implementing partners will continue to do their own things and steal public funds.”