Maurice Kertho, the chief operating officer Prism Construction Company Ltd
Prism Construction Company Ltd is seeking to recover nearly Shs9b—including Shs4.5b it was awarded in prolongation costs—following a dispute over a Shs10b project.
The firm was in January 2020, contracted to construct curriculum-based structures at Uganda Teachers’ College Bushenyi within nine months under the Uganda Skills Development Project (USDP).
The $100m (Shs354b) project is funded by the World Bank under the auspices of the Education ministry. Its core goal is to enhance the capacity of Bukalasa Agricultural College (BAC) and junior vocational institutes to deliver high quality, demand-driven training programmes in the agricultural sector.
Agnes Arach, the acting USDP coordinator, however, said Prism Construction Company Ltd failed to deliver works despite being given three extensions.
“We had a contract with Prism Construction Company Ltd, which eventually expired and the Solicitor General gave us guidance to procure another contractor to complete the remaining facilities,” she revealed.
She added that EGIS Contractors has now been contracted to complete the works in the next six months at a cost of Shs5.9b.
“What the new contractor is going to work with is the balance from Prism—that is the money that has not been spent and should have been used to complete the facility,” she said.
But Mr Maurice Kertho, the chief operating officer at Prism Construction, told Sunday Monitor they have not been formally notified about giving the contract to another firm.
“Awarding a contract at above 85 percent completion of physical works to another contractor at 60 percent contract value (Shs5.9b) is a loss of taxpayers’ money,” he reasoned.
“Don’t you find it strange that for the same quantities in the Bills of Quantities, the ministry has awarded the contract to the new contractor at Shs5.9b? What is the justification of this variance of only 10 percent works left, and why wouldn’t they accept our request for an independent consultant to carry out the valuation in order to ascertain the true value of the works left?” he further asked.
According to Mr Kertho, the project would have been handled well if the Education ministry had an independent consultant.
“We advised that [the ministry] appoint a project manager (consultancy firm) as required in the contract instead of managing it by themselves,” he said.
Now, Mr Kertho says, Prism Construction Company Ltd seeks to recover Shs8.7b, including prolongation costs from an adjudication award quantified at Shs4.5b.
“When we started excavation works in February 2020, we discovered that the site had underground utilities and were asked to proceed to another site, almost 300 metres away, Mr Kertho said, adding: “At this [second] site, there was no site plan and architectural drawings to commence with. All we did was to excavate and remove soils to pave the way for a new site plan.”
“When work picked up five months later, key materials such as BRC A193 for foundation works weren’t readily available due to supply chain disruptions caused by the national lockdown arising from Covid-19, and despite suggesting alternatives such as 8mm round bars, the ministry rejected,” he further revealed.
According to Mr Kertho, other alternatives such as use of sand instead of stone dust for blinding works were equally refused, which stalled the project for nearly six months. It didn’t help matters—he added—that the stone quarries in the region were working irregularly.
While Mr Kertho confirms that they were given extensions thrice, the reshuffle of Permanent Secretaries, which saw long-serving Alex Kakooza made principal private secretary to the vice president, left a huge communication gap that persists to date.
According to Mr Kertho, from February last year right up to when the project ended, there was no supervision as Ms Katie Lamaro—the incoming Permanent Secretary—assumed office when the contract had expired.
“She only invited us with two other contractors of Karera and Nyamitanga Technical Institutes, who were contracted for similar works under the Bushenyi Cluster, on November 15, 2021 to harmonise all pending matters.
“In that meeting, she asked each contractor to give their conditions under which they resume work and that was in the presence of the State House Infrastructure Division Unit team, which was actually assisting her.
“On our part, we responded that we needed the payment of our certificate of Shs2.3b to enable us return to the site, and she advised that she would respond through her technical team but unfortunately, no response has been received from her to-date and all attempts to meet her thereafter were unsuccessful.
“We were writing to the ministry but getting no response except occasionally from one Douglas Tumwine, who was writing on her behalf,” Mr Kertho recounts.
Govt speaks out
When contacted, the Education ministry spokesman, Mr Denis Mugimba, said in an email: “These matters are new to me, but also your questions are of investigative nature that I am not able to respond to without knowing all the facts from the parties involved; namely the Ministry of Education, Bushenyi UTC, and M/S Prism. As of now, I am unable to provide any specific response to the issues you inquired about.”