Mbarara municipal councillors have expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which contracts for infrastructure projects within the municipality are being awarded and executed.
The concerns were raised Thursday during an extra ordinary council meeting where councillors demanded investigations into how contracts are awarded in the municipality.
Among the contracts in question is the one on street lighting which is implemented by Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID), a loan program funded by World Bank. It is designed to enhance institutional performance of 14 Municipal councils across the country so as to improve urban service delivery.
As part of the USMID project, roads within the municipality were lined with lights for security and better lighting during the night.
However, according to Imam Shafiq Kajiko, the councilor for Katete Ward, the street lighting project was awarded to an incompetent contractor (Congheng Company).
He says the Shs 13bn project was handed to a nonexistent contractor that was not even verified.
“This could just be a brief case company not existing at all. We are aware the company is owned by one of the municipality officials which is against the law,” said Kajiko.
Councillors through the Speaker, Bonny Tashobya, recommended that the Town Clerk investigates the contracted firm and present the contract agreement to council.
“Town clerk, councillors are saying that 70 percent of the street lights are not working and they want to see the contract agreement. It’s an inquiry, town clerk you can respond,” said Speaker Tashobya.
On explanation, the newly appointed Town Clerk for Mbarara municipality, Lilian Kobusingye also asked the Municipal Engineer to explain.
In his explanation to council, Sebastian Baryaija, the Engineer indeed confirmed that the street lights are not working.
“It’s very true that some bulbs are not lighting and it’s not that they have failed to light now. They have taken some good time without lighting,” Baryaija said.
He added that the contractor was officially invited to rectify the matter but he has never surfaced.
“The (former) Town clerk wrote to the contractor during the defect liability period to come and reinstall his lights, he refused to respond. Recently, the Town Clerk wrote to him a reminder letter that his lights blew and that he should work on them, but we are still waiting for the contractor,” said the Municipal Engineer.
“About the retention on the first letter writte eto him, the defect liability period was 6 months and retention fund of about Shs 24million is not yet paid by the Mbarara municipal council,” explained Baryaija.
Kajiko told council that other contracts awarded have failed to yield any results to the tax payers. He says that quality controls die during the time of contract bidding by incompetent officers.
“The moment there is any compromise or undermining of the process, things will never be in order. Mr Speaker, we talked about those street lights and the process of contract was not fine to the extent that the contract was signed by the Town Clerk before the scrutiny and recommendation by the municipality treasurer and the engineer”.
He said the awarding of the contract was hastily. The fictitious procurement is what explains the fact that works were meant to last 2 months but ended up taking as long as 9 months, Kajiko said.
“It shows that the contractor wasn’t competent. He was awarded the contract abnormally instead of a qualified person”.
He also took council trough a series of municipality projects including the bridge in Katete Ward, Nyamitanga Division, which was designed to last 20 years but is already deteriorating one and a half years after its construction.
“In the case of Katete bridge, we asked them that the contractor be revealed which we were denied. Neither did they show us how much was to be spent on the bridge. Instead we were all silenced, but now, the bridge which has not spent two years is already dilapidated”.
He attributed the problem to impunity and arrogance from the executive and the technocrats.
Councillors through the Speaker passed a motion to investigate thoroughly issues pertaining to project contracts in the municipality.