Construction company ready to reclaim Shs9b from government
Prism Construction Company Ltd is seeking to recover nearly Shs9b – including Shs4.5b awarded to it in extension costs – following a dispute over a Shs10b project.
In January 2020, the company was contracted to build curriculum-based structures at Uganda Teachers’ College Bushenyi within nine months as part of the Uganda Skills Development Project (USDP).
The $100 million project (Shs354b) is funded by the World Bank under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. Its main objective is to strengthen the capacity of Bukalasa Agricultural College (BAC) and junior vocational institutes to deliver high quality and demand-driven training programs in the agricultural sector.
Ms. Agnes Arach, the acting USDP coordinator, however, said Prism Construction Company Ltd had not delivered the works despite three extensions.
“We had a contract with Prism Construction Company Ltd which eventually expired and the Solicitor General advised us to find another contractor to complete the remaining installations,” she revealed.
She added that EGIS Contractors has now been contracted to complete the works over the next six months at a cost of Shs5.9b.
“What the new contractor will be working with is Prism’s balance, which is the money that was not spent and should have been used to complete the installation,” a- she declared.
But Mr Maurice Kertho, chief operating officer of Prism Construction, told the Sunday Monitor that they had not been officially notified that the contract had been awarded to another company.
“Awarding a contract at over 85% completion of the physical works to another contractor at 60% of the contract value (Shs5.9b) is a waste of taxpayers money,” he said. -he explains.
“Don’t you find it strange that for the same quantities in the bills of quantities, the ministry awarded the contract to the new contractor at Shs5.9b? What is the rationale for this discrepancy of only 10% remaining works, and why wouldn’t they accept our request for an independent consultant to carry out the appraisal to determine the true value of the remaining works? he asked further.
According to Mr. Kertho, the project would have been well carried out if the Ministry of Education had had an independent consultant.
“We advised that [the ministry] appoint a project manager (consulting firm) as required by the contract instead of managing it on their own,” he said.
Now, says Mr Kertho, Prism Construction Company Ltd is seeking to recover Shs8.7b including the costs of extending a quantified award decision to Shs4.5b.
“When we started excavation work in February 2020, we discovered that the site had underground utilities and we were asked to proceed to another site, almost 300 meters away, Mr Kertho said, adding: “At this [second] site, there was no site plan or architectural drawings to begin with. All we did was excavate and remove the soil to clear the way for a new site plan.
“When work resumed five months later, key materials such as BRC A193 for foundation work were not readily available due to supply chain disruptions caused by the nationwide lockdown resulting from Covid-19 , and despite the suggestion of alternatives such as 8mm round bars, the ministry rejected,” he further revealed.
According to Mr. Kertho, other alternatives such as the use of sand instead of stone dust for the filling works were also refused, which blocked the project for almost six months. The fact that stone quarries in the region were working irregularly did not help matters, he added.
While Mr Kertho confirms they have received extensions on three occasions, the permanent secretaries’ reshuffle, which saw longtime Alex Kakooza appointed senior private secretary to the vice president, has left a huge communication gap that persists at this day.
According to Mr Kertho, from February last year until the end of the project there was no supervision as Ms Katie Lamaro – the new permanent secretary – took over when the contract expired.
“She only invited us on November 15, 2021 with two other contractors from Karera and Nyamitanga technical institutes, who have been contracted for similar works under the Bushenyi cluster, to harmonize all outstanding issues.
“At this meeting, she asked each contractor to give their terms under which they resume work and it was in the presence of the State House Infrastructure Division unit team, who were assisting her actually.
“From our side we replied that we need payment for our certificate of Shs2.3b to enable us to return to the site, and she indicated that she would reply through her technical team but unfortunately no No reply was received from her to date and all subsequent attempts to meet with her were unsuccessful.
“We wrote to the ministry but got no response, except occasionally from a certain Douglas Tumwine, who wrote on its behalf,” says Mr. Kertho.
When contacted, Ministry of Education spokesperson Mr Denis Mugimba said in an email: “These questions are new to me but also your questions are of an investigative nature which I am unable to answer. respond without knowing all the facts of the parties involved. ; namely Ministry of Education, Bushenyi UTC and M/S Prism. At this time, I am unable to provide a specific answer to the issues you have inquired about. »