The State minister of Local Government, Ms Jennifer Namuyangu, has blamed the contractor for the slow progress of the construction of the multi-billion Masaka Central Market after finding it at foundation level a year later.
"The contractor is just lazy. This is unacceptable. The other markets which started in the same period are almost nearing completion, at least reached 60-70 per cent. Why only Masaka market which was given to a local contractor is at only 20 per cent?" Ms Namuyangu asked.
"It will be a shame upon a Ugandan failing a project when foreign companies have completed," she added.
Ms Namuyangu made the remarks during the inspection of the market last Thursday where she led a team of 30 officials accompanied by district leaders.
The market, whose construction works commenced on February 14, last year, is expected to be commissioned on February 20, 2020.
A joint venture of Multiplex Ltd and Alshams Construction Company Ltd was contracted to redevelop the structure at Shs18.4 billion courtesy of the African Development Bank and Ugandan government.
The minister's team also discovered that less than 50 workers were on site, with majority using rudimentary building tools.
When asked about the number of workers at the site, Mr Sliver Nuwagaba, the site engineer, said they employ more than 100 workers but some of them do not report regularly.
"They all don't come here at once, some are at other sites and only come here on specific days," Mr Nuwagaba said, prompting Ms Namuyangu to request for the attendance book.
The book indicated that between 40 and 50 workers report daily since the project started.
Mr Nuwagaba said they always get response on technical inquiries from consultants late which partly slows down the work.
"At one side of the market, we had to seal the foundation using stones, but given the nature of the soil, we excavated beyond what was planned and suggested to build a concrete wall. But up today, the consultant has not yet made changes in the drawings," he said.
Mr Nuwagaba also said the project stalled for three months due to rain and late power connection to the site.
"Umeme also took long to connect our site, the retaining wall issues not yet addressed, bar bending schedule also have unsolved issues and so many other technical challenges. So, we could not proceed without the consultant's permission," he said.
Mr Moses Ndege Bbosa, the managing director of Multiplex Ltd, promised to pick up the pace, saying the first floor will be completed by March.
However, Mr Alex Ayo, a consultant from Architect Consult Ltd, responsible for the designs, consultancy and supervision of the project, said the technical challenges could not cause delays as claimed since they could be rectified as the project progressed.
"We have always advised them (engineers) on many technicalities, no other pending matter has been formerly addressed to us for clarification," he said.
Mr Emmanuel Mwebaze, a senior engineer with Local Government, said the project may take four years to get completed if labour shortages and conflicts between the contractor and consultant are not addressed.
"The contractor was given an advance of Shs3.6 billion and was given a test which he must pass. Let the site engineer advise the consultant on what is needed to quickly arrive at the solution," Mr Mwebaze said.
He advised the contractor to stop using manual labour. "Dumpers are needed not wheel barrows. Let him also deploy multiple labour to work during the day and night, also the technicalities cited cannot stop the contractor from completing other tasks," Mr Mwebaze said.
"At this level, I expect to see at the site concrete mobile mixers, dumpers, vibrators, max pans, bars, cement, decking materials and adequate labour," he added.
Ms Elizabeth Nakayiza, the chairperson of the Masaka Central Market Vendors Association, said they complained to the district leaders about the slow progress of the project, but were not given answers.
The Masaka Municipal mayor, Mr Godfrey Kayemba Afaayo, said they could have stopped the contractor, but feared litigation since the contract was awarded by central government.
Mr Herman ssentongo, the Resident District Commissioner, promised to provide security to all necessary machines once brought to the site.
The district chairperson, Mr Jude Mbabaali, promised to intesify supervision of the project.