Kampala – In line with NRM manifesto implementation, Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has started the implementation of a multibillion project to light up 580 sub-counties and 52 town councils.
In a brief authored by the REA Executive Director, Godfrey Turyahikayo, he revealed the implementation of the Bridging the Demand-Supply Gap Through Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme (BDSGAREP)is taking shape.
The USD 212m project that is being undertaken by a Chinese firm, M/s TBEA Co., Ltd, is being financed through a concessional loan from the EXIM Bank of China.
The three-year project whose aim is to electrify all un-electrified administrative headquarters (558 Sub-county Headquarters and environs, 52 Town Councils and Divisional Headquarters) all over the country is on course despite some challenges.
He said owing to challenges that were facing this project at the start, in August 2019, a new Project Management Unit was formulated by the Executive Director to better manage the implementation of this flagship project.
The new PMU is headed by Eng. Charles William Lutwama as the Project Manager and is also comprised of four regional Senior Construction Engineers, four Environment and Social Impact Management Officers, four Assistant Wayleaves Officers, two Assistant GIS Officers, a Quality Assurance a Engineer and scope Management Engineer.
“As a requirement by the project financier, REA engaged a Supervision and Project Management Consultant, M/s EPTISA, from Spain, who is currently deployed,” the report says.
For purposes of ease of project management and supervision, the country has been divided into 4 regions i.e. Central, Eastern, Northern and South Western regions and the implementation of this project has been scheduled to be done in 5 phases.
Phase 1 includes the official Project Launch Schemes. The schemes were selected to achieve visibility in relatively less served districts. Phase 2 includes shorter schemes that can be quickly commissioned to increase project visibility in order to achieve, in a short time, a higher percentage of administrative centres connected and manage public expectations.
On the other hand, Phase 3 includes the longer lines that would require more resources and time. Phases 4, 5 & 6 include schemes that are planned to interconnect with lines that are to be constructed by other REA projects, which are yet to be implemented, especially the World Bank funded ERT III and the African Development Bank (AfDB) funded UREAP projects.
The overall plan is to ensure that all lines for which construction is completed are commissioned within the shortest time possible and handed over to the respective Service Providers (SPs) for management and commencement of implementation of customer connections.
“The connection materials that are to be supplied by TBEA shall be delivered to the stores of the respective SPs as and when they shall be needed throughout the project period. Any balance of materials shall be handed over to REA for management,” the report adds.
In order to ensure adherence to the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BuBu) policy, all the wooden poles and concrete stubs to be used under this project are to be locally sourced.
TBEA has to date contracted four pole manufacturing companies. As at March 2020, 10,400 out of 140, 411 poles had been delivered to the site and the company is looking at adding more pole suppliers soon.
“Once the poles are ready for shipment to site, TBEA notifies REA and EPTISA and a team is dispatched to witness Factory Acceptance Tests (FATs). Up to 10 FATs have already been conducted at the various pole treatment plants and all the poles for which the tests were deemed satisfactory have already been delivered to site,” the report adds.
PROCUREMENT OF IMPORTED MATERIALS
The report adds that the first consignment of imported materials from China arrived in Uganda at the end of October 2019 and these materials have already been received at four warehouses (rented by TBEA) in Mbale, Gulu, Mbarara and Mubende.
REA and EPTISA have already carried out site verification at Mbale and plans are underway to visit the other locations.
Some of the materials received include Transformers, switchgear and other line accessories.
“FATs for the second consignment of imported materials were completed in China on 17th December 2019 and shipment to Uganda has
commenced. However, the current outbreak of COVID-19 has slowed the shipment process. The last consignment of Batch 2 materials arrived at Mombasa on 31st March 2020 and REA is currently working hand in hand with TBEA and URA to have these materials delivered to Uganda,” the report adds.
Around 50% of the major imported materials and equipment compared to Design BOQ have been procured through FAT1 + FAT2 carried out in September and Dec 2019.
The construction has already commenced in most of the Phase 1 Districts and REA envisages that the contractor will have deployed in 71 (i.e. 68%) districts by December 2020.
“In preparation for the official project launches, which are scheduled to take place in 20 Districts spread across the Country, REA and the Supervision Consultant, M/s EPTISA, have cleared TBEA to commence construction works in those districts
CONTRACTING OF LOCAL SUBCONTRACTORS
TBEA has contracted 45 local subcontracting firms for the execution of construction works under Labour and Transport arrangements in fulfillment of some of the requirements during the approval of the loan for this project.
“Parliament made it a must that all construction works shall be done by local subcontractors to enhance local content,” the report says.
TBEA is mandated to engage a minimum of 40 local firms as the project subcontractors and so far up to 18 subcontractors have already been engaged on ongoing construction activities.
RESETTLEMENT ACTION PLAN STUDY (RAP)
At the beginning of supervision of this project by the new Project, there was a misconception by TBEA that REA was supposed to carry out the RAP Studies under this project.
This led to a few delays and eventually the commencement of the implementation of the Phase 1 projects with any RAP studies being done. Subsequently, TBEA has been engaged and strongly reminded of their contractual mandate
Despite the progress, the project has met some challenges. They include; delayed start of construction due to poor rates offered to subcontractors by TBEA: This has however been solved by TBEA engaging with smaller companies, some of whom are already struggling with liquidity problems.
Another challenge is a delay in Warehouse set-up. This has been solved by TBEA leasing warehousing space in the four regions.
Lack of RAP study and approval thereof is also hindering the project. “TBEA is mandated to procure vehicles under this project but despite various interventions by many parties including instructions by the Hon. Minister of State, Hon. Simon Dujanga, they have adamantly refused to procure the vehicles,” the report concludes.