MASAKA, Uganda: Parliament and security have picked keen interest in negative developments at the Villa-Bukomansimbi-Sembabule road construction after disturbing revelation that several kilometers of the road have been laid with materials not meeting required specifications, hence rendering the road below required standards, the Investigator exclusively report.
The hitherto long awaited construction on the over 30yr long, close-to-impassable road finally commenced in February 2015 after government contracted a Chinese company, China Railway N03 Engineering Group Co. Ltd, to construct the 110 stretch from Masaka, through Villa Maria, Bukomansimbi, Sembabule and connecting to Gomba. The 3yr period contract is upon completion, to cost the Ugandan tax payer, Shs230Bn.
Though placed in the government coffers’ budget for over 25 years, the road had been intentionally ignored courtesy of the area’s political gripes mostly between Parliamentarians Theodore Sekikubo and Sam Kuteesa. Led by their local leaders, residents staged several peaceful demonstrations before they caught the eye of the President who stood his ground to see the works on the road commence.
The road, which by this time should be in its completion stages, has however got struck by a glitch upon revelation of substandard and unacceptable materials used on it, putting its assured lifespan in utter balance. Impeccable Parliament and security sources reveal that actually, the contractors could have intentionally used the reported fake materials to cut costs only the mission to be foiled by the intelligence.
Latest is that the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has henceforth stopped usage of the major material the contractors have long been using, describing it as substandard and directed its immediate removal from site. “The tests show that bitumen supplied under batch 01 do not meet the specifications for 80/100 penetration bitumen both in terms of penetration and softening points. This has been observed on site in prime and pre-coating,” reads in part, the test results report signed by Eng. Easter Santos.
The Investigator research reveal that bitumen is the most required component in road construction which has no alternative in production of anything called a complete tarmac road. The primary use of bitumen is in road construction, where it’s used as the glue or binder mixed with aggregate particles to create tarmac concrete. “It’s used in road construction to bring flexibility to pavements and ensure they strongly bind and hold the construction components together and provide a smooth and levelled surface for the moving vehicles. It continue to be favored as the most important material in construction,” offers Colas East Africa Ltd engineers’ guide.
Further research indicates that bitumen consist of adhesives which bind together all the components without bringing about any positive or negative changes in their properties. “Bitumen is inexplicable in water and can serve as an effective sealant. It is also Strong, though the coarse aggregates are the main load-bearing component in a pavement, bitumen or asphalt also play a vital role in distributing the traffic loads to the layers beneath,” said an engineer with government pre-qualified construction company on anonymity condition adding that its component lives up to twenty years if maintained properly throughout the pavement life.
Way back in 2012, angry Sembabule and Bukomansimbi residents had, led by their leaders staged demonstrations to protest the delayed construction of the road. Upon the commencement in 2015, the Bukomansimbi LC V Chairman Muhammad Kateregga said he was ‘excited’ the project had finally kicked off. He cited the many coffee farmers in his district had issues accessing the market because of the poor state of the road. He asked the contractors to execute an excellent job bearing in mind that government was to inject a lot of money on it.
However, one of the senior residents predicted the current developments when he threw strong doubts on excellence of the work even after government had smoothly compensated the residents in whose land, the road was to penetrate. “I will only celebrate once the project is complete,” George William Kavuma, a resident of Bukomansimbi declared then, saying despite the commissioning of the road works, he is not sure the project will be implemented to its standards.
Indeed, Kavuma’s predictions seem to be home and dry as per the UNRA Engineer’s findings. “This is therefore to instruct that you stop the use of bitumen supplied under batch 01 for any purpose and remove [it] from site with immediate effect.” Whereas the Engineers rightly demands removal of the bad bitumen off the site, there seem no fresh equal directives to the contractor to have the distances covered by the same to be re-done!
A Member of Parliament on the Works committee confirmed last night that actually, they have picked interest in investigating the matter along with security. “We need to know whether the Engineer’s directive was adhered to on time and how long had these shoddy works had been in place. It is also questionable why the contractor used untested materials as prescribed in the contract. We shall look into several complaints regarding this road since its works’ commissioning three years ago,” said the legislator on anonymity conditions for now.
Efforts to reach the Contractors’ head Mr. Li Peng, to whom the directives were addressed were futile as he never picked our repeated calls before the filing of this report… to be continued…
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