Last week Uganda finally signed a deal to start construction of the Karuma Dam with Chinese firm, Sinohydro Corporation.
Hopefully this is the tail end of a controversial tendering process where government officials have disregarded due process, ignored caution from the procurement agency, the courts of Uganda, the IGG, the cabinet and for good measure tried to rope in the President into their scheme to force through their favoured candidate in an unparalleled show of impunity.
In the process they delayed the 700 MW dam’s construction by more than a year, time Ugandans cannot afford to lose.
The process was so compromised that the cabinet was forced to cancel it on the advice of the IGG and not only did President Yoweri Museveni have to personally appeal to China to help build the dam but had to chair an evaluation committee which interviewed andvetted the short listed companies!
People familiar with the process, report that he was not particularly happy to be going into the kitchen himself to supervise the cooking.
In order to live up to its ambitions Uganda needs tons of more electric power.
According to the National Planning Authority(NPA), in 2009 the country’s per capita consumption of power is about 69.5 kWh way below the continent’s average of 578 kWh.
What this means is that with our relatively low generation capacity we can’t sustain the industrial base needed to generate jobs as fast as we need them.
NPA estimates that to bridge the gap we will need to build up our generation capacity to over 3000 Mw from our current figure of under 500MW. But tin order to secure a place firmly in the middle income countries of the world like Malaysia and South Korea who consume upwards of 4000 kWh we have to rump our generation capacity to above 40,000 MW.
Speed is of the essence especially since our population is set to double every two decades.
The same capacity shortfalls haunt every major sector of our economy – roads, railway, water transport and ICT among others.
Clearly our bureaucrats are not doing us any favours in the way they are conducting business and the sooner this is faced up to the better chance that our ambitions of economic transformation will be achieved in our life time.
How do senior officials with long histories in public service and politics throw all caution to the wind in trying to subvert, literally, a lifesaving project for millions of Ugandans now and well into the future?
The project – the dam and the hundreds of kilometers of transmission lines, will cost $1.65b. A ten percent commission to deliver the dam to one contractor or the other would amount to $165m or about sh429b!
The OPM and public service corruption scandals, which amounted to about sh200b pale in comparison to this racket.
They say everyone has his price and sh429b looks like an irresistible figure that would guarantee that one would retire to a life of leisure and comfort. The millions of children one would doom to death or to a life of perpetual poverty probably did not occur to these officials or maybe a few million deaths is an incidental they can brush off as collateral damage?
The IGG continues her investigation in to the shenanigans that have led to the stalling of this project.
In light of the billions of dollars in infrastructure deals we will be doing in coming yearsthere must be a way to ensure they are handled efficiently and with no loss to the tax payer?