KAJJANSI FISH PROJECT
Government has repossessed a multi-billion-shilling fish farming demonstration facility in Kajjansi after contractual disagreements between a Chinese firm and government had delayed the handover.
Chines firm Huaqiao Fenghuang Group undertook to upgrade Kajjansi Aquaculture Research and Development Centre in 2008 for government, but refused to hand over, even after completing work in 2014.
Upon completion, the facility was to revert to National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRI), an arm of National Agriculture Research Organisation to produce fish seed and feeds for farmers.
NaFIRI director Dr. Taabu Anthony Munyaho last week received an office block, 23 fish ponds, 26 concrete tanks for production of fish feed from officials of Huaqiao Fenghuang Group. Also handed over was a hatchery workshop, feed factory, among other apparatus.
Dr Matthew Mwanja, the acting director at the facility, confirmed the development, adding that the takeover will help the government boost aquaculture as they push to increase dwindling fish production in the country.
“Our first focus is on filling the capacity gap we have been facing which had left us unable to provide enough [fish] seed and feed for our farmers,” said Mwanja.
According to Mwanja, they were given a target by government to produce 135 million fingerlings for the country per year. However, they could produce only two million over the last five years.
Currently Uganda has a fish deficit of about 300,000 metric tonnes, exclusive of external demand from countries like Congo, Rwanda and the European Union.
In a bid to plug the hole, government reached a bilateral agreement with the Chinese government to fund the Kajjansi facility in 2008.
New Vision has learnt that the contactor refused to hand over in 2014, citing breach of contractual terms by Uganda and Chinese governments.
The matter first came to light last year when the Office of the Auditor General summoned the director general of NARO to respond to queries raised by auditors.
New Vision understands that refusal to hand over had sparked bad blood between the Chinese company and NaFIRI officials, which had paralyzed some activities at the facility.
The company had reportedly set up parallel structures to NaFIRI’s.
“Some Chinese officials were selling poor quality fingerlings and fish feeds to farmers. In the end, it is our name as NaFIRI that was getting soiled because people did not distinguish between NaFIRI and the Chinese,” a source at the institute told New Vision.
“One day, a UPDF major turned the heat on one of our officials when seed he had bought returned poor yields.”
Efforts to get a comment from Huaqiao Fenghuang Group were futile as New Vision could not trace any of its contacts in Uganda.
However, according to information on http://admin.china.aiddata.org, the Chinese blamed the Ugandan government for the anomalies that hit the project.
“When the originally designated funding from the Government of Uganda fell short, the Chinese government issued a grant so that the center could be realized,” says the website.
By the time of publishing this, New Vision had not been able to establish what financial obligation Uganda and Chinese committed to bring to the table in the $5m deal.