It is as if the few in positions of authority can be as careless, corrupt and as stupid as they wish and the masses will do virtually nothing. Call it apathy or anything else, but folks will look on or probably throw a few tantrums and everything gets back to normal.
As a people, we easily endure or forget and move on in record time.
Consequently, albeit regrettably, what we create is a leadership that exhibits shocking levels of impunity and recklessness and abhors transparency and accountability.
How else do you explain the madness dogging the major government construction contracts today? One after another, same miserable pattern.
Talk of the 22 trillion Railway deal, Katosi road et cetera; and now, we have the 12 billion shillings major road rehabilitation works in Mbale Municipality. This project which is funded by the World Bank under the Uganda Support to Municipality Infrastructural Development (USMID) is in the rocks.
According to the deal, Prome Consultants was contracted to produce the road designs and a Zambian Construction Company by names of Plinth Technical Services (PTS) was contracted to build the said designs on all the major roads within Mbale Municipality to wit; Republic Street, Pallisa Road, Nabuyonga Rise, and Bugisu Hill.
Reliable sources indicate that the road works that were to be completed within 12 months were to improve the roads to Grade A, widen them, and install working streetlights.
Perhaps more significantly, the round about on Pallisa Road (Clock tower) was to be cleared to make way for the construction of a wide straight stretch and have it fitted with traffic lights to control the traffic flow.
But today, the roads of Mbale Municipality are akin to a poorly cultivated potato garden and no works are in progress. When it rains, you will be forgiven to think that you have miraculously albeit unfortunately, found your way into a certain neighbour’s pigsty.
In line with the contract, Prome Consultants designed the road plans and handed them over to Plinth Technical Services. The Managing Director of Prome is quoted by the Daily Monitor confirming that they submitted the road designs to the World Bank and they were duly approved. It is not clear whether Mbale Municipality approved the same; and if so, who approved the same?
Plinth Technical Services then proceeded to interpret the designs as received from Prome Consultants during which they reportedly discover that the designs are in fact, faulty. The PTS Engineer Mr. M. Balwadde is quoted in the Daily Monitor to have warned the Mbale Municipal Engineer of the flaws in the designs and advised that they be changed before any road works commence. The Municipal Engineer rubbished this red flag.
Having been disparaged, PTS proceeded to dig up the entire tarmac on all the Municipal roads and started work.
However, it was not long before the sight of roads being raised higher than the streets and shop verandahs flabbergasted residents. As if to test the level, it rained and offices and shops were flooded as the roads and drainages remained clear; benefit of assuming a higher ground. The Municipal Engineer remained defiant.
Rather predictably, this gross incident triggered the seldom public outrage from the affected residents. In some isolated incidents, residents protested by dumping garbage on the roads and engaging in brief sporadic running battles with the police.
On October 07th, 2014, the Municipal authorities were forced to suspend the Municipal Chief Engineer Mr. Edson Kasata from supervising the road works due to alleged incompetence.
Ms. Rhoda Nyaribi, the Municipal Environment Officer who also holds the office of the Road Inspector was immediately appointed to supervise the project.
The blame game continues.
The Municipal spokesperson, Mr. James Kutosi is quoted observing that, “We can’t blame Plinth Technical Services but we must blame Prome Consultants who designed the road. That is why we have dismissed them and contracted Blessed Consultants to continue with the work”.
The Mbale District Engineer, Mr. W. Nangosya had a different opinion from that of Mr. Kutosi. He opined thus, “It is absolutely wrong for Plinth to make a road that goes above the basement and verandahs of buildings in town. This cannot pass basic evaluation test and I don’t know the merits and basis of the World Bank awarding the contracts to PTS”
Nangosya further blasted the work done by PTS so far and dismissed it as sub-standard work. His verdict was that PTS had outrageously misinterpreted the road designs as developed by Prome Consultants.
As humongous dust continues to shape and dominate the skyline of Mbale town, one wonders who is fooling who and why?
The Municipal Environment Officer, Ms. Rhoda Nyaribi is also quoted in the Daily Monitor taking a swipe at PTS for failure to regularly water the road in breach of a contractual obligation to do so to ensure the road under construction is “environmentally friendly”.
Now, the Municipal authorities have engaged the services of another contactor, Blessed Services to redesign the road. Prome’s work is discarded.
One wonders whether all this drama is necessary for a road of such few kilometers.
Mbale is my hometown and my thoughts go out to the folks who have businesses and offices along the streets. How do they deal with that dust? This is very unfair, a violation of a contractual obligation by failing to make the roads environmentally friendly and hence a breach of the law. I have no reservations that there are many more contraventions to write home about.
PTS or any other involved contractor must commence forthwith to ensure that all those streets are watered to keep that dust down and the council should strive to ensure that these issues are resolved as soon as possible and the road works are seriously implemented.
The residents of Mbale understand that they must pay a sacrifice to have better roads in the near future but such should be unavoidable ones; not these manmade inconveniences which are facilitated by certain incompetent service providers and irresponsible officers of the state.
So, yes, you are right. Apart from the Uchumi supermarket debacle, the fact that I got back to a dusty town was yet my other festive season bone in the flesh.
I sincerely hope and trust the Mbale Municipal authorities to reign some order in all this mess.