The Auditor General has re-emphasised the need to carry out a specialised audit on the ongoing Karuma and Isimba multi-billion power projects despite the Ministry of Finance failing to provide the required resources.
Appearing before Parliament’s Finance Committee today, John Muwanga said that although his office has prioritised audit of the two projects in their 2017 audit plan, the finance ministry has yet to provide the funds.
The demand for resources to audit the projects comes at the backdrop of reports of shoddy work and negligence by contractors and government officials manning Isimba and Karuma hydro-power projects. There are reports of cracks developing in the construction works at Karuma which might the tax payer billions of shillings.
Construction of Isimba and Karuma hydro-power dams priced at nearly two billion dollars, approximately 6.7 trillion Shillings, was started with a view of lowering the cost of electricity in Uganda to boost production and investment for job creation.
Both dams are planned to be ready by 2018, but meeting this timeline has also been described as unlikely due to infighting and lingering questions about integrity of engineering work on the projects.
According to Muwanga, five billion Shillings is required to conduct a comprehensive audit of the two projects.
Muwanga adds that his office requires a total of 83 billion Shillings in the coming financial year 2017/2018 but it has been allocated only 49.3 billion Shillings, leaving a funding gap of 33.6 billion Shillings.
Although Muwanga underscored the need to fast-track the audit on the two power projects, the MPs led by the shadow minister for finance Anthony Akol tasked him to give a detailed justification for the money.
In response, Francis Masuba, the assistant Auditor General explained that neither does the office of the Auditor General nor Uganda at large have the capacity to carry out a major engineering audit on the electricity dams. This, he said, is the reason they are asking for five billion shillings to outsource an international consultant. Masuba said that the five billion Shillings estimated cost could even go higher.
Muwanga also noted the scarcity of engineers that are specialists in dams worldwide.
James Bantu, the director of audit responsible for forensic investigations and IT, told Uganda Radio Network – URN that the five billion Shillings was arrived at as a percentage of the amounts involved in the two projects.
He said that once the money is provided, the engineering audit will look at the quality of the structures being put in place, their strength and others.
Bantu said that this work can only be handled by an international engineering firm and that they will only kick-start the procurement process for a firm when funds are confirmed available.