11 September 2012

Uganda: Don't Let Karuma Go Bujagali Road

The Inspector General has halted the Karuma Dam Project over Bribery and Corruption allegations. ( Resource: Uganda's Karuma Dam Bidding Stopped Over Alleged Graft


The Karuma hydro power dam tendering process has stalled following a PPDA directive as well as a court injunction imposed by a losing bidder. Construction of the 600MW project had been expected to start by the end of this year but that is now unlikely.

The delay brings a sense of déjà vu. The Bujagali hydro power dam project, which eventually came on board mid this year, was delayed for more than a decade, causing untold damage to the economy.

Now on board, Bujagali power has given Ugandans what they have not known in a long time: reliable electricity supply. But experts caution that this can only last three years before demand outstrips supply again.

The government had hoped that the Karuma project would be completed in time to mitigate the expected shortage, but alas, the curse of contracts has struck again! It is a disturbing reality that no major contract in Uganda gets awarded today without a fair share of controversy.

The NSSF proposed multi-storey complex on Lumumba Avenue is facing similar delays after some of the bidders protested against the tendering process. Sometimes the allegations hold water but sometimes losing bidders simply don't want to accept the outcome.

In the end, precious time and money are lost as the process drags on almost endlessly. This has got to stop. The government needs to find ways of ensuring that all public tendering processes are above board.

Public officers who mess up procurement procedures, causing unnecessary delays and losses, must be punished severely to discourage such conspiracy. Contractors who delay tendering processes without justifiable cause must be blacklisted to discourage the culture of crying wolf even when there's no reason to.

Where there's a genuine complaint, the matter must be dealt with expeditiously by the concerned bodies. If Uganda is to graduate into a middle-income country in 30 years as the new 'Vision 2040' proposes, we can't afford to spend 15 years building just one 600MW dam. We are in a race against time which we must win to keep up with the rest of the world.

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