Let us debate UPDF expertise on works

UPDF Engineering Brigade  undertake the construction of housing units in eastern Uganda. PHOTO | DEFENCE PRESS UNIT

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Engineering
  • Our view: The government should be interested in ensuring that they undertake a comprehensive skilling programme with their engineering department.

Three years ago, President Museveni directed the Ministry of Health and that of Education to use the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) to implement the construction of projects.

The two ministries, often given the largest chunk of Uganda’s budgets, were compelled to give the biggest contracts to the army.

In his wisdom, the president hoped to avoid wastage and minimize costs as charged by private contractors.

The success of that declaration is still up to debate but there seems to be clamour to use the UPDF due to its ability to mobilise manpower quicker than any private contractor would.

Their tasks have since stretched beyond school and health centres to encompass rehabilitating Entebbe International Airport and roads among others.

Even before the decree, Makerere University also contracted UPDF to build a netball arena back in 2018.

The stadium was initially built to host the World University Netball Championships in 2018, but after the competition ended, work on the stadium stalled.

None of those projects has caused an uproar as big as last week’s when the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, directed the Minister of State for Education and Sports (Sports), Mr Peter Ogwang, to present a detailed status report on the renovation of Namboole stadium.

This came after several delays by the UPDF to deliver the stadium, for which Shs97b was allocated, to its required standard to enable it to get accreditation to host international games.

The blame game that eloped in the Ministry of Finance started in earnest ended with a promise of delivering the remaining Shs17b today.

However, some of the things being raised now were highlighted by the Federation of Uganda Football Association (Fufa) in early 2023.

Fufa argued that UPDF do not have the expertise to build stadiums like they may have in schools and hospitals since the former is a specific niche. 

The government should be interested in ensuring that they undertake a comprehensive skilling programme with their engineering department to be able to deliver projects of this nature and beyond.

Yes, it’s cheaper to use the army and therefore more cost effective but this has to be backed by acquiring the required expertise in the medium and long term.  

It’s not uncommon across the world to find armies that are doing what the UPDF is striving to achieve. However, we must be very deliberate in imparting the skills needed to do projects that are more complicated than walls and roofs.