Reference is made to the article that run in the New Vision on Friday, 15th May 2020; in which parliament queried the delay in implementation of 270 sub counties across the
- Progress on the project
Notwithstanding the challenges, there has been a perception that this sub counties project known as the “Bridging the Demand Supply Balance Gap Through the Accelerated Rural Electrification Program” (BDSGAREP) is behind schedule, however as explained here the (Subcounty) project is on course and may even be delivered before the contractual three years since some critical milestones were achieved before contract effectiveness despite the current COVID-19 pandemic which has generally slowed things down countrywide.
The sub counties project is financed by the EXIM Bank of China through a concessional loan of USD 212 million. The funds are to cover the construction of over 4,000km of mediumvoltage networks and over 6,000km of low voltage network. This includes electrifying 620 administrative centers which covers; 558 subcounty headquarters, 10 Divisional and 52 unserved Town Council headquarters countrywide. In addition, there is to be installation of of 3,401 distribution transformers and 170,000 last mile connections.
Currently, implementation is on-going in 22 districts forming the first phase. Technical commissioning has already taken place in four of the districts including; Kiboga, Kumi, Kapchorwa and Kyegegwa.
For purposes of ease of project supervision, the country has been divided into four regions including the Central, Eastern, Northern and South Western regions; with the implementation to take place in five phases.
Phase one includes schemes in twenty (20) districts selected to cover relatively less served districts. The districts include; Kapchorwa, Bugiri, Kibuku, Kumi, Madi, Adjumani, Kagadi, Kibaale, Isingiro, Kanungu, Bundibugyo, Rakai, Manafa, Namutumba, Ntungamo, Otuke, Omoro, Kyegegwa, Kasanda and Kiboga district.
Phase two (2) includes the shorter projects mostly targeting administrative centres while phase three (3) includes the longer lines that require more resources and time while phases four (4) and five (5) include themes meant to interconnect with lines that are to be constructed by other REA projects yet to be implemented, especially the World Bank funded ERT III and the African Development Bank (AfDB) funded UREAP projects. Some of the lines for which the interconnection has already been effected include the following:
In Kiboga District, the Lwamata Subcounty and Kyomya Subcounty schemes are ready for commissioning,
Akalabai-Kajamaka/Opetot 4.09km line. This scheme interconnects with the 33kV Mbale – Kumi 33kV line operated by Umeme Ltd,
Orapada Primary School 0.15km, This scheme interconnects with the 33kV Mbale Kumi 33kV line operated by Umeme Ltd,
Oswapai-Kapokina-Atutur 3.9km line. This scheme interconnects with the 33kV Mbale -Kumi 33kV line operated by Umeme Ltd,
In Kapchorwa, Kabeywa Subcounty (Chepterit- Tangwen-Sunguta-Kokowmasewe, 3.55km), Kwoti Subcounty (Litei-Kween, 0.8km), In Kyegegwa, the Kigambo Subcounty, Kyegegwa Subcounty and Kigambo Subcounty schemes.
- Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BuBu) policy
In order to ensure adherence to the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BuBu) policy; the following has been done;
(i) To date TBEA has contracted 45 local subcontracting firms for the execution of construction works under labour and transport arrangements. They are mandated to contract a minimum of 40 local companies for the execution of the entire contract.
A total of 24 local construction companies out of the 45 have already mobilized to site with a total of 47 construction teams and about 850 workers at sites. At present, for MV lines, a total of 9,124 foundation pits have been excavated, 7,846 poles have been erected, 4,000 sets of fittings have been installed, and 282.83 kilometers wires have been strung; for LV lines, 13,619 foundation pits have been excavated, 10,799 poles have been erected, and 5,636 sets of fittings have been installed, and 240.389 km wires have been strung.
(ii) All the wooden poles and concrete stubs to be used under this project are to be locally sourced. TBEA has to date contracted four pole manufacturing companies and all have delivered poles to the various construction sites. The quantity of wooden poles ordered to date is 61,415, out of which 24,294 have passed Factory Acceptance Tests (FATs) and 22,638 of these have already been delivered to the various construction sites.
(iii) The only items being imported include transformers, cables and conductors, load break and airbreak switches, switch box and metering units and auto Reclosers.
- Challenges on the project
Some challenges on the project that have been mitigated include the following;
(i) Some of the delays occurred since TBEA Co.Ltd, who are the EPC contractor for this project, are also the ones who were responsible for arranging/promoting this loan in line with the EXIM Bank guidelines and one of the conditions was that TBEA and REA had to first sign a commercial agreement before the loan could be approved and consequently, the concessional loan agreement between Government of Uganda and the EXIM Bank of China, was signed on 16th January 2019.
Therefore, despite the fact that the commercial agreement was signed in October 2017, contract effectiveness couldn’t be achieved before signing of the loan agreement and hence the project couldn’t officially kick-off.
(ii) Additionally, the project consultant’s (EPTISA) contract was signed in June 2019 (there was no need having the consultant on board before signing of the loan agreement), some of the works that had been done by TBEA (including preparation of preliminary designs) had to be ratified by the consultant, which may be perceived by some as a retraction in project progress. As a requirement by the project financier, REA is required to have on board a supervision and Project Management Consultant.
(iii) At the beginning of this Project, there was a misconception by the contractor that the client was supposed to carry out the RAP Studies under this project. This led to a few delays and eventually the commencement of the implementation of the Phase 1 projects without any RAP studies being done. Subsequently, TBEA has been strongly reminded of this contractual mandate and have since engaged the services of a local sub-contractor for carrying out the RAP study.
(iv) Due to the current national lockdown, planned works under Phase 1 have been impacted and therefore in order to ensure continuity of the project and to avoid demobilization of some already engaged subcontractors, it was resolved that works can commence in some other Phases. As a matter of fact, more schemes should have been ready for commissioning according to our earlier implementation schedule, but these have been affected by the current COVID-19 lockdown and their commissioning dates have been slightly offset.
Furthermore, the current National Lockdown, has also affected all site inspections and investigations and as such the TBEA design team has been suspended. Therefore, the design team of TBEA can only do indoor design work. According to the current epidemic situation, Chinese government requires all persons entering China from abroad be quarantined for 14 days.
TBEA originally planned to carry out the third FAT in June 2020. Due to the impact of the epidemic, the 3rd FAT of imported materials cannot be performed in time. If Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) cannot be carried out in time in July 2020, the imported materials will affect further construction. In view of the above actual situation and to ensure the smooth progress of the project, we are studying the possibility of witnessing the tests via video link.
Due to the serious impact of the epidemic, the inspection and requirements for exported materials in Shanghai Port of China are more stringent; the shortening of working time of Mombasa Port in Kenya increases the time required for customs transit and time for transportation from Mombasa Port to Malaba Port.
This is further aggravated by the reduced working hours of Uganda Customs officers at the respective ports of entry. Currently the time for transportation and customs clearance of imported materials has increased from the original around 45 days to around 3 months, which would seriously affect the execution of the project.
Due to the current lockdown, construction has been prohibited by local government/ police in some districts. For those districts where construction has been permitted by local governments/police, TBEA has requested their subcontractors to take proper measures against COVID-19.
REA applied for movement permits from the respective Ministries but only managed to secure a few, which are currently being shared amongst the various ongoing REA projects as well as for the movement of Kampala office operational staff to and from work. Despite having requested for more stickers for TBEA and EPTISA, we have since failed to secure any, which has greatly affected the supervision of the project.
Nevertheless, REA has mobilized Residential Senior Construction Engineers to the four regions (Northern, Eastern, Southern/Western and Central) to ensure closer supervision under the current circumstances. EPTISA have also mobilized Resident Clerks of Works to the four regions.