I have been reading online articles and others in the Red Pepper newspaper alleging poor works on Mbarara Bypass – Ntungamo road project. I take these allegations seriously and decided to visit the site for a spot visit. I have found that these screaming and abrasive headlines are just painting a false gloomy picture of UNRA and the Contractor. The suggestion that UNRA is not supervising the project and this is “another Katosi” shows ignorance of the characteristics of road project construction cycles. There are definitely improvements that can be made in traffic management, and those that have been identified are being immediately implemented. In addition, monitoring of the existing road is to be placed on to a continuous basis with the involvement of a dedicated traffic management team.Dan Alinange; Head Corporate Communications, Uganda National Roads Authority
The press article and other online articles are a scurrilous piece of journalism, not based on fact, and would seem to have a hidden agenda, or for the creation of sensational headlines for its readers. I’m not in the business of defending contractors but I stand for the truth. The allegations are as follows:-
1. The Chinese contractor China Railways Seventh Group has abandoned the works
2. That the works are not as good as Ntungamo-Katuna;
3. The Contractor is using rudimentary tools and a handful of casual workers;
4. The Contractor dug a small stretch from Ndeija to Mbarara and left it untarmacked;
5. Because of heavy rain the road is impassable and traffic is opting to divert from Ndeija-Ryakasinga-Kabwohe and then connect to Mbarara;
6. There are no road signs; and
7. The project was supposed to be finished in August this year.
Following my visit to the site today, I will respond to the above allegations as follows:
1. The Chinese Contractor China Railways Seventh Group has abandoned the works:
a. The Contractor has not abandoned the works;
The advance works of culvert construction and road widening are well progressed and on schedule. The Contractor has progressed as below:-
Concrete Box Culverts – 24 complete
Metal Pipe Culverts – 8 complete with backfilling ongoing
Road widening – 10km of 26.6km ongoing
Rockfill to swamps – 0.5km ongoing
b. It should be made clear that backfilling of completed culverts cannot take place until 28 days have elapsed in which time the concrete is tested for strength and approval given for backfilling.
c. The earthworks operations for road widening works cannot be carried out under wet conditions.
2. That the works are not as good as Lot 2 & 3 for Ntungamo-Katuna
a. Lots 2 & 3 have been in progress since 2011 and the pavement layers and asphalt are virtually complete.
b. The Contractor for Lot 1 Mbarara Bypass-Ntungamo commenced real works only in April 2014.
3. The Contractor is using rudimentary tools and a handful of casual workers
a. It is unclear what this means!
b. The contractor have mobilised over 167 items of specialist plant & equipment most of which is new and state of the art.
c. With regards to manpower, the Contractor is currently employing:
i. Chinese staff – 53No
ii. Local Staff – 547No of which over 10% are female
4. The Contractor dug a small stretch from Ndeija to Mbarara and left it untarmacked
a. This probably refers to the road widening operations, where the widening areas are excavated to remove unsuitable materials andthen backfilled in layer thicknesses with approved materials.
Once the earthworks level of the widening areas reaches the level of the existing road then this is opened to the traffic until the pavement layers commence. In fact at this stage the actual road considerably wider and the area which has been widened provides a smoother ride than the existing road. The drawback is that when it is wet it becomes muddy, and when it is dry then it causes a dust problem. This will be rectified once the pavement layers are being constructed. However, at any time the road is passable.
b. Due to the rain, some of the widening areas which are in swamps and waterlogged areas cannot be processed and will have to wait for the rains to finish. Perhaps this may be part of the abandonment allegations?
5. Because of heavy rain the road is impassable and traffic is opting to divert from Ndeija-Ryakasinga-Kabwohe and then connect to Mbarara
a. This road junction at Km 32 is in constant use and is a short cut connecting traffic coming from the Kabale direction and heading for Kasese. The distance to travel to Mbarara is over 55km on a gravel road!
There are no culverts in the area of this junction and road widening operations have only reached to Km 26 therefore there are no construction related problems in this area.
6. There are no road signs
a. This is incorrect. All traffic diversions around culverts have signs, and widening areas being worked on are marked with pegs and reflective tapes
b. Where necessary flagmen are in operation
c. The main problem is that many drivers do not obey the signs and cause obstruction and confrontation with other road users.
d. Many signs are stolen and have to be replaced almost on a daily basis.
7. No construction equipment on the road
a. This may be partly true because when it is raining the Contractor cannot work and will remove the equipment to a safe place to avoid damage and theft which is experienced on the project.
8. The project was supposed to be finished in August this year
a. As previously mentioned, this part of the Mbarara-Katuna project did not really commence operations until April 2014, whereas Lots 2 & 3 have been in progress since 2011 and the pavement layers and asphalt are virtually complete with the asphalt pavement in Lot2 will be completed by the end of January 2015.
b. It should be mentioned here that the Mbarara Bypass which is well hidden away from the travelling public with major earthworks, cut to fill sections, and rockfill to swamps, is well advanced and does not form part of this discussion
c. The completion date for the Lot 1 project is the end of April 2016.
Head Corporate Communications
Uganda National Roads Authority
3rd December 2014