Energy Infratech PVT Limited (EIPL), the Indian consultancy firm that has for more than a year supervised construction works on Isimba hydro power plant on behalf of Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited, says it will only respect the termination of its contract after it has received full payment.
On August 18, government moved not to renew EIPL’s contract amidst complaints of incompetencies and failure to execute its supervisory role well. The firm’s contract was to run for 40 months but there was a possibility of it being extended by another 12 months if government was satisfied with its work.
Meeting at a rather heated handover ceremony presided over by Dr Badru Kiggundu, chairperson of the project steering commitee, yesterday, EIPL officials showed displeasure at how they were being pushed out.
VPS Chauhan, an official from EIPL, wondered why they were not given enough time to prepare and hand over. Without revealing how much money government owes them, Chauhan said they would not fight government but that it was prudent they be paid instead of being pushed out.
He explained that they could not hand over and leave yet many of the local employees had not been paid their arrears yet.
“We only received the letter about the handover yesterday. Government has not paid us since December 2016. We will only leave after being paid,” complained a disgruntled Chauhan.
The Kiggundu-led project steering committee was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni to handle quality assurance concerns on Isimba and Karuma hydro power projects. This was after it was established that works on the two sites were shoddy and threatened their durability.
Kiggundu clarified that EIPL’s contract had not been terminated but government only chose not to renew it. He observed that the decision not to extend the owner engineer’s [supervisor] contract was informed by EIPL’s record and performance in the last four years.
“Whereas the project still has over 12 months to completion, Energy Infratech’s 40-months fixed-term contract expires today. Government has exercised its discretion not to extend the contract of EIPL,” Kiggundu said.
“Every marriage has issues and you don’t have to disclose them,” he added, preferring to keep the details of what could have informed their decision private.
At the handover ceremony, Kiggundu unveiled an interim committee that would play the supervisory role for the next two months. The interim team was appointed by the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) in consultation with the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) and other stakeholders.
Dr Harrison Mutikanga, the chief executive officer of UEGCL, explained that works on Isimba dam would progress since the contractors, China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE), are not affected. He revealed that UEGCL and the project management consultants, SMEC International, would for now play the supervisory roles on Isimba.
By November 1, a new owner’s engineer would have been appointed to take over from the interim committee for the remaining 10 months.
“We shall strive to expedite the process of procuring the new owner’s engineer so that we have no downtime on this crucial project,” said Mutikanga.
James Banaabe, the acting director, energy resources, in the ministry of Energy, assured EIPL officials that by the time of their exit next week, government would have cleared the payments. He observed that payment invoices had been sent to the relevant ministries and that EIPL’s payments would be effected.
Construction of the $567 million plant commenced in April 2015 and the project is currently at 62 per cent overall progress.