On November 5, 2021, Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) made an announcement on Twitter that excited Entebbe Road users. The perennial flooding at ‘Bata Bata’ would be history, the tweet promised.
“As part of the ongoing rehabilitation works along Kibuye-Mpala road,” Unra stated, adding, “A permanent solution [in form of a box culvert] has been designed for implementation. For now, the contractor is set to undertake desilting works.”
The news was warmly received because flash floods in the area are notorious whenever the heavens let loose. The floods have always left a trail of destruction, including deaths, damaged roads and destroyed homes and businesses.
In December 2019, for instance, five people, including a police officer, died in floods. Among those killed was Jowelia Tumusime, 50, who was swept away by floods and killed in the Bata Bata area.
On September 8, Unra confirmed that the $12m (Shs46b) refurbishment works on the 22-kilometre Kibuye-Entebbe Road had been completed.
The project, according to the roads authority, included the repair of existing walkways, construction of drainage channels to reduce flooding and putting in place street lights, among other things.
Mr Allan Kyobe, the Unra spokesperson, said the roadworks, which had been undertaken by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), had been completed ahead of time. The Substantial Completion Certificate, he added, had already been issued to the contractor.
On ground, however, the Bata Bata section of the road continues to flood even after Unra cleared the “substantial” works. There are no signs that the “box culvert designed for implementation” or “desilting works” by the contractor were ever conducted.
Other sections that flood include Lubowa near the failed International Specialised Hospital, and Zzana Roundabout. It gets worse at Kajjansi, specifically Kajjansi Police Station and Uganda Clays.
Sunday Monitor has seen a copy of the August 2 “Substantial Completion Certificate” which places the section of Kibuye-Mpala on Entebbe Road under the Defects Liability Period (DLP) effective August 2 to February 3, 2023.
A DLP is the time period specified in the contract during which a contractor is legally required to return to a construction site to repair any defects which have appeared in that contractor’s work since the date of completion.
It is not clear whether the works required at Bata Bata and Kajjansi, for example, fall under DLP.
Mr Kyobe said the Bata Bata and Kajjansi areas were of concern to the roads authority, and insisted the contractor was still on ground and would see through the works.
We contacted CCCC Ltd, but they were yet to respond to our questions by press time. Together with works on Entebbe Road, CCCC constructed the Entebbe Expressway and undertook works at Entebbe airport.
Its travails are a microcosm of what Chinese companies that have in the past two decades flocked the country to handle major projects undergo.
Currently, a team of experts from China are in the country to assess the defects on the 183MW Isimba hydropower dam.
Investment by China’s government through loans, grants and other forms of funding has been hailed for its contribution to development, especially in the infrastructure sector. It is, however, not all rosy. In some cases, President Museveni has had to exercise executive authority to compel his subordinates to award construction projects to various Chinese companies.
While challenges on a number of major projects taken could boil down to poor supervision and corruption by Ugandan authorities, there are questions to be raised on the role of the companies.
Four Chinese companies were compelled to refund Shs26b meant for compensation under several Unra projects. The money, according to Parliament, was part of Shs47b advanced to the companies by Unra to compensate individuals affected by project works. The companies, however, put the money in fixed accounts to accrue interest.
More than 200 Chinese firms operate in Uganda in sectors such as infrastructural development, natural resource exploitation, manufacturing and production, communication, hospitality and international trade, among others.
Projects red-flagged for numerous issues
In the list below, which is by no means exhaustive, Sunday Monitor highlights some of the projects backed by the Chinese government or undertaken by Chinese companies flagged for numerous issues.
Karuma Dam ($1.7b or Shs6.2 trillion). It has taken more than a decade to fully come to life. The 600MW dam project has faced allegations of shoddy works that have ranged from defects on the dam, breached contracts and even allegations of sabotage. China’s Sinohydro Corporation Ltd is the contractor.
Entebbe airport ($200m or Shs758b). In 2015, Uganda got a $200m (Shs706.4b) loan from the Export and Import (EXIM) Bank of China for the upgrade and expansion of Entebbe International Airport. The project was given to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). An investigation by this newspaper unearthed rot in the project, including issues of improper markings of the runway, aprons and taxiways. It also spotlighted a smaller new cargo centre with inadequate cold rooms improperly positioned for operations.
Fort Portal-Hima Road (Shs28b). In 2015, China Chongquing International Construction Corporation (CICO) constructed the 55km Fort Portal-Hima Road in Kasese District at a tune of Shs28b. It became the subject of an inquiry after developing potholes in the first year after completion of the construction.
Pakwach-Nebbi Road (Shs22.2b). In 2015, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, the then chairperson of the Unra Commission of Inquiry, observed that Pakwach-Nebbi Road was in a worse state than ever before after it was upgraded from gravel to bitumen in 2005. The government had, in 2001 contracted China Road and Bridge Construction Company to undertake the construction of the Shs22b road. The road developed potholes before the DLP. The Chinese firm was faulted for, among others, failing to follow the road design.
China Roads and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) (Shs197b). Despite being debarred by the World Bank in 2009 for eight years after “engaging in collusive practices” during the bidding of a project in the Philippines, the company was recently awarded the contract to restore the Tororo-Namanve Metre-Gauge Railway. The project involves the restoration and reconstruction of 234km of existing meter-gauge railways, starting from Tororo and ending at the Namanve Station of Uganda’s existing metre gauge railway.
China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). In April, police in Bukwo District arrested two Chinese nationals attached to CSCEC for alleged sexual harassment. The two were part of the team carrying out construction work on the 77km Kapchorwa Suam Road and allegedly harassed two female Ugandan women working with the company.
CSCEC is handling a number of projects, including Kingfisher Project EPC-2; the Shs23b Kitgum Central Market funded by the African Development Bank-AfDB at a tune of Shs23b and the Shs30b Orom Water Supply and Sanitation System. The company, together with Kampala Capital City Authority, were sued for alleged negligence during construction of Kulambiro ring road, which reportedly caused damage to private property. Together with Sterling Construction Company, the company has been faulted for the slow construction works on several city roads.