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Steel firm on the spot over Jinja building collapse

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th January 2020 02:38 PM

It remains unclear what led to the collapse of the building as the Police are yet to release an official statement.

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Jinja residents gathered at the building that collapsed on School Lane in Jinja. Photo by Donald Kiirya

It remains unclear what led to the collapse of the building as the Police are yet to release an official statement.

PROBE

Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has been petitioned over suspected culpability of Great Steel Ltd in the collapse of a building in Jinja last week. The company manufactures steel bars from scrap.

A whistleblower has claimed that poor quality steel bars from the company were used in the construction.

A two-storey building located on Plot 17 Gokhale Road, Jinja caved in last week, leaving people dead and scores trapped. More than a week later, the Police is still investigating the cause of the collapse.

The building supervisor, only identified as Yassin and site engineer, whose names were not readily availed, are being sought. It is alleged that the structural engineer of the building – owned by a Jinja-based businessman of Somali origin, identified as Abdul Samali, died two months ago.

It remains unclear what led to the collapse of the building as the Police are yet to release an official statement.

 

Steel is by far one of the major components of any building project, be it large or small scale. In a letter to UNBS, the whistleblower says the steel that was used was from Great Steel. However, New Vision could not independently verify the claims.

When contacted on the known company source, the person at the end of the line refused to comment. However, New Vision has learnt that the company was once blacklisted by UNBS for engaging in unscrupulous acts of steel manufacture that led to adulterated steel that did not meet the standards.

In a UNBS letter of September 2016, the standards body directed Great Steel Ltd to immediately suspend the manufacture and distribution of ribbed bars.

The letter claimed that UNBS conducted surveillance inspections between July and September in different hardware shops in Matugga, Masaka and Kasangati and discovered substandard ribbed bars manufactured and distributed by Great Steel Ltd. The letter says the bars were unmarked and underweight, contrary to the requirements of US EAS 412-2:2013.

UNBS said 28 tonnes of substandard reinforcement bars worth sh51m were seized.

UNBS also directed the company to recall from the market all the substandard/unmarked ribbed bars that had been distributed by them or their agents. The case was handed over to the Police for further management.

However, when contacted, Eng. Jackson Kabikire Mubangizi of UNBS, said the company had since rectified their mistakes and had been allowed to resume production.

 

A source in the Uganda Steel Manufacturers body, who did not want to be named, insisted that Great Steel Ltd were abusing the sector with their ribbed bars commonly known as ‘TMT’ bars, used in large construction projects.

“We tried to reach out to them to join us for proper standard enforcement and they refused,” a source said.

“They have been abusing the sector for some time by selling their bars way cheaper than the standard price."

The whistleblower said they had written to UNBS, National Environment Management Authority, as well as the trade ministry over the activities of the company.

UNBS boss Ben Manyindo confirmed receiving several complaints about the said company, but said they were still investigating and reviewing the contents of the complaints.

Manyindo said they were also reviewing all the firm’s activities in Uganda and that they had a fully-fledged surveillance team that was on ground, checking on all the said complaints. He said the firm would be closed if found guilty.



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