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Consultants spell disaster on Adjumani’s World Bank-Funded Road Projects

Some of the aggrieved Rock Trust manning the gate at the Company office where road equipment is parked protesting the non-payment of their wages for three months

Adjumani, (UG): The World Bank funded Multi-billion road works in Adjumani town council under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) project is on the verge of going to dogs as the 6 months project which is scheduled to close on December 31, 2023, has attained a low work progress of 10%.

During a press conference held at Adjumani Multi-Purpose Training Centre, on Wednesday, October 4, 2023, the residence Engineer of Segamu 14 and Hersun Consultants Ltd, Buzibwaa Luswata said “The work progress makes us very unhappy, the contractor should have progressed but with almost two months left there is certainly no chance the project will be completed.

Engineer Buzibwaa revealed that out of the total 3 box culverts to be installed each of the culverts is expected to take four weeks excluding the duration for filling and the most critical is the pre-casting of piped culverts which will be laid under the road surface which needs about 200 culverts which he notes could be difficult to accomplish in two months.

“Work progress is about completing in time but this cannot be achieved, we are devastated and stuck, though the contractor can finish earth works box culverts poses a big problem”.Eng Buzibwaa laments.

In such a profane circumstance the only practical remedy for rescuing the roads project according to engineer Buzibwaa is to subcontract part of the works or bail Rock Trust from the financial volatility that has crippled works at the site.

Eng Buzibwaa addressing journalists on Wednesday, October 04, 2023

The Adjumani Chief Administration Office (CAO) Mr Oryono Grandfield speaking to journalists said that his office has tried everything possible to financially empower Rock Trust (U) Limited but the management has failed to fulfil requirements leading to the release of funds.

“As I talk now the shs 10.3 bn allocated for the contract is intact in the district account because the management of Rock Trust has failed to make requisitions for the work done which is less than 20%”.

According to Mr Oryono, his office has elaborately advised the management of Rock Trust to produce advance payment bank grantee or bid security documents so that his office will have the mandate to process payments within 24 hours but to date, he has not received feedback.

An expert familiar with contracts management said the only available option or plan B is to subcontract to another contractor but such an arrangement is only at the discretion of the Rock Trust Contractor (U) Limited since the powers have been assigned to him.

Three months down the road the construction works for the upgrading of the 3.1 kilometres of roads in Adjumani town council to bituminous surface that was contracted to Rock Trust Contractor (U) Limited has failed to produce the required result.

Since July 12, 2023, the Contractor has been fumbling on Administration Road which is 1.3 km, where they have worked on two box culverts and graded about 0.4km of the road section 

On July 12, 2023, Rock Trust Contractors U Ltd signed an agreement with Adjumani District Local Government for upgrading 3 kilometres of road to the bituminous road surface at the contract sum of 10.273.496.747 shillings. The roads cover the Administration Road which is 1.43km, Illa Road 0.66k and Market Road 1.09km.

The project is funded by the World Bank under USMID AF and the Consultancy work is jointly done by SEGAMU14 and HERSUN Ltd.

The scope of work according to the design document that was authored by AB Consults includes; a carriageway, solar-powered street lights on both sides and walkways on the drainage

Alert signal on signal on the controversial road project was issued in August 2023, by a local politician-cum social media activist Mr Angwe Solomon, he raised a red flag on workmanship and an ostensibly bargained quantity and quality of work differing from the approved design when he carried out on sight voluntary monitoring and discovered that the width of the road has been wickedly narrowed signifying an ancient and substandard design.

The report of the monitoring caused public uproar leading to an emergency meeting that was convened by the district chairman Mr. Anyama Ben on August 17, 202, which was attended by Adjumani woman MP Ababiku Jesca where technical and other social issues were resolved.

As the meeting progressed what was notable was that the contractor did not have the financial capabilities to handle such a hybrid contract as furfur investigations unearthed the company does not have a reputable track record in road works apart from doing average work in Jinja Soroti Cities and Isingiro district in Western Uganda.

A section of right-thinking persons in Adjumani are now demanding community action against Rock Trust for failing the roads project but such action is deemed unnecessary since the Contractor has not received money from the Adjumani district local government even for the little work done.

The million-dollar question is how Rock Trust a broke contractor maneuvered its way into a lucrative multi-billion contract award without being detected by the office of the CAO.

The CAO, Mr Oryono has been faulted for manipulating the contract award for Rock Trust in return for the usual 10% kickback but he vehemently denied the allegation describing it as a knee-jerk reaction out of frustration.

An official from the USMID secretariat who sought not to be named in this story when contacted said the USMID Project was designed to last for 5 years and it is therefore ending in December 2023, and by that time, funds not utilized to full capacity will revert to World Bank accounts.

Two weeks ago, the local workers of Rock Trust laid down their tools following non-payment of their wages for three months but Adjumani RDC, Mr Taban Data Peter advised the aggrieved workers to return to work after the management pledged to pay them at the end of September.

However, DailyExpress has since established that the Company Sociologist, Ms Shally Mania has been sacked over claims of inciting workers to strike.

As of October 4, 2023, all the 12 workers recruited from Adjumani District have again laid down tools over a broken promise claiming that the Managing Director of Rock Trust Mr. Ssembatya Francis has failed to live up to his promise.

The workers have barricaded the main gate of the company office and camped on the compound vowing not to leave the gate until they receive all their wages to the last coin.

Speaking on the telephone from Kampala the managing director of Rock Trust (U) Limited Mr. Ssembatya Francis conceded he took long to settle the workers’ wages but explained that it is not in the company policy to delay wages and attributed the delay to challenges that were not predicted.

He promised to pay all the aggrieved workers before the end of office business and that will also mark the end of their contracts with Rock Trust because he cannot entertain workers who use “protest” as a tool for addressing their grievances.

“The written contracts I have offered them is a clear manifestation that am committed to paying their wages but they have turned my generosity to holding me a hostage which must stop henceforth,” Engineer Ssembatya fumed.

The managing director of Rock Trust (U) Limited could not respond to a question on the progress of the road works “I don’t want to talk about that now, I will be able to commend elaborately when am in Adjumani”.

The residents of Adjumani town want the district leadership to come clear and task CAO Oryono Grandfield to explain in a non-opaque modus why he opted to award such a contract involving colossal funds to a contractor who has been surviving on shoestring resources’ or capital.

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