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Museveni orders minister to suspend top energy officials

By David Mugabe, Charles Etukuri

Added 14th April 2016 09:24 PM

Those suspended included the ministry’s Senior Accounting Officer, Project coordinator and Principal Energy Officer.

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Energy minister Irene Muloni tours the Karuma Dam project with contractors on April 8, 2016. (Credit: Miriam Namutebi)

Those suspended included the ministry’s Senior Accounting Officer, Project coordinator and Principal Energy Officer.

President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Irene Muloni to immediately suspend three top engineers to pave way for an investigation after their names were implicated in the recent document submitted to him over shoddy work in the ongoing construction of the Karuma (600MW) and Isimba (183MW) dams.
 
Those suspended included the Ministry’s Senior Accounting Officer and former Acting Permanent Secretary Eng. Paul Mubiru, Eng. Cecilia Menya, Project coordinator Isimba dam and the Principal Energy Officer Eng. Henry Bidasala, Igaga project coordinator Karuma dams.

An aerial view of Karuma Dam under construction. (Credit: Miriam Namutebi)


 The Minister of Energy Irene Muloni who received the directive remained tightlipped though she admitted that an action had been taken by the President but could not divulge details.

“I cannot reveal the details here now. Why are you interested in a presidential directive?” wondered Muloni.
 
The Presidential Press Secretary Lydia Nabusayi however confirmed that the directive had been made.

“HE the President has directed for the suspension and investigation of the 3 Engineers over neglect of duty and issued a stern warning on contractors,” Nabusayi stated
 
The minister of energy last week gave the firm building Karuma power dam one month to carry out tests on the cause of cracks on the spillway section of the dam.
SynoHydro Corporation, the Chinese firm building the dam has now suspended work on the spillway section of the dam where possible defects have been sighted.
 
“They will come out with the repair statement and method for our approval detailing how they will deal with the crack, cracks are inevitable but we try to minimize them in construction,” noted Irene Muloni, the energy minister.

One of the entrances to the construction sites of the tunnels at Karuma Dam. (Credit: Silvano Kibuuka)


Irene Muloni and her junior minister Eng. Simon D'ujanga and the permanent secretary toured the dam over the weekend to establish for themselves the persistent reports of substandard work going on at Uganda’s biggest power dam under construction.
 
During the technical tour, there were four evident cracks on the dam’s spill way walls that is supposed to hold and release the side water that passes through the power house. SMEC, the audit firm contracted by Uganda Electricity Generation Company (UEGCL) had also raised concerns about the 200m section support structures in the dam’s underground tunnels. She asked the contractor to finish the support structures in a week’s time.
 
Because the dam is located around the greater Murchison conservation area where wildlife like hippos roam anytime, the power house is underground to avoid disturbing the wildlife because of the noisy gushing water.

Muloni demanded that the contractors and consultant work as a team and avoid causing friction over issues that can be resolved through coordination.
 
The 600MW Karuma Power Dam is located in Kiryandongo, Oyam and Nwoya districts in northern Uganda and is being constructed at a cost of $1.4b.

The project is under the ministry of energy which contracted Energy Infratech to supervise the contractor. But another audit firm SMEC that was hired to ensure compliance noted several defects even with the Isimba dam creating suspicion about the quality of work and casting doubt about the possible longevity of the dam.

A crack on the dam's spillway mass concrete that has raised questions over the quality of the works. (Credit: Silvano Kibuuka)


Muloni noted that the consultants should engage technically when they identify defects “that is why I am going to take off time and clarify their roles because we want to end up with a world class project.”
 
Energy Infratech have mostly dismissed the complaints as mistakes that are bound to happen but are correctable.

But Harrison Mutikanga, the boss of UETCL said if due process had been followed, the mistakes that are emerging now would have been averted.

“What they are going to do now, they should have done it two years ago, The supervisor (Energy Infratech) should have been supervising this work,” noted Mutikanga adding that in some cases where they have noted defects in the spill way, repairs were done without agreeing on the methodology.
 
Meanwhile, before visiting Karuma, Muloni visited Isimba and established that there were issues with the construction works underway.

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