Also in attendance were officials from UEGCL, Ministry of Works and Transport, the Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers and Engineers (UIPE), and Engineers Registration Board (ERB), among others.
Earlier last Monday, the UIPE President, Mr Andrew Muhwezi and the ERB chairperson, Mr Isaac Mutenyo, and their teams visited the dam at the parallels of Kayunga and Kamuli districts at the behest of Works and Transport minister Gen Katumba Wamala to offer their opinion.
During the meeting, sources said that the engineers offered their diagnosis of the nearly $570m (Shs2.2trillion) dam, one of President Museveni’s pet projects, and advised that immediate action be taken to avert a likely catastrophe.
The dam was commissioned in March 2019 and was still under the contractual four years Defects Liability Period (DLP) during which the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor, in this case CIWE, is obliged to attend to both minor and major glitches cited in the project.
However, during the last months, UEGCL has been complaining and lamenting to whoever cares to listen CIWE’s disinclination to address the defects.
In one August assessment report UEGCL flagged 10 major defects all categorised as “high risk” which must be urgently fixed. One of the defects is the crumbling foundational concrete at the waterway gates, which images taken by underwater cameras show continues to fragment slowly towards the embankment—the large concrete barricade that holds the reservoir.
What could possibly go wrong in case of a disaster such as the embankment bursting remains an imagination but it could be disastrously costly going by dam burst experiences recorded elsewhere.
During the meeting, sources revealed that the government side nudged to CIWE to stick to their contractual obligations. Officials also read the riot act for the contractor by recapping all clauses in the EPC contract.
Mr Okaasai said we “agreed the matter will have to be discussed at Head of State level at some point.”
“Right now, UEGCL and the contractor really need to sit down,” he said. “It might also sound like learning the hard way but we also discussed that in the future, Ministry of Works should be involved in all big projects, especially on material testing.”
The construction of the two flagship Karuma and Isimba dam projects has been inundated with controversy since inception. The dams are constructed with funding from China’s EXIM Bank.
The key defects include power house concrete cracks and roof drainage, embankment dams, installation of floating boom, leakages in the powerhouse roof, power firefighting system automation, tail water systems, and cabling in power house and switchyard.
Others are absence of platforms to access spiral casing, Unit 3 oil leakage, standby generators, elevators and lifts to lower redial gates with defective hydraulic hoists causing leakages of oil into the river.