UGANDA, Hoima | Real Muloodi News | The completion of the Hoima International Airport, a USD$309 million airport in Uganda financed by Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), is in jeopardy as construction works have halted due to a lack of funds from the government.
The contractor, Shikun & Binui International-SBI/Colas Limited, a joint venture of Israeli-British firms, has been forced to stop work as it has not received the necessary funds from the government to complete the remaining construction.
The contractor has been calling for over USh126 billion in additional funding to complete the project, but the government has not responded positively.
Amos Muriisa, the Communications Manager at SCB, said in an interview that the contractor has been in talks with the government several times to give them the necessary funding needed to complete the control tower and other operations at the airport.
The situation has compelled the contractor to halt operations of the entire construction works at the airport until the government responds, said Muriisa.
Fred Byamukama, the State Minister for Works, expressed his dismay during a field visit to the airport when he found construction works had stopped.
According to Byamukama, the government is investigating the contractor for allegedly inflating prices for some construction materials and is suspected of conniving with some top government officials to swindle money meant for the construction of the airport.
Byamukama claims the contractor’s recent demand for an additional USh126 billion to complete the airport project is under unclear circumstances, and that the government had already allocated all the funds needed to construct the airport.
Conversely, Muriisa attributed the funding issues to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused variations in prices for the airport construction materials, surpassing the project budget.
The government is currently negotiating with the contractor to ensure the construction works can continue. However, if the negotiations fail, the government will consider terminating the contract and hiring another contractor to complete the remaining civil works, said Byamukama.
The government is committed to ensuring value for the entire project and wants the contractor to provide proper accountability for the money paid, he says.
Kadir Kirungi, the Hoima LCV Chairperson, expressed his concern that halting the construction works at the airport will adversely affect those employed by the contractor.
He called on the government to cooperate with the contractor and harmonise the issue.
The airport is one of the key support infrastructures for the fast-paced activities leading to commercial oil production, and its completion is crucial to the country’s development.
Construction of the runway, which is 3.5 kilometres long and 45 meters wide, is 98% complete, while the cargo terminal building, the limited-capacity passenger terminal building, the air rescue firefighting house, the power substation house, and the air-ground lighting system are all between 89% to 90% complete.
The airport will accommodate four cargo planes, a fire station, an apron, a control tower, accommodation facilities for workers, parallel runways, a taxiway, communications and navigation systems, a perimeter fence, and an air-ground illumination system.
The airport is expected to handle both cargo and passenger flights due to its multipurpose terminal building.
Construction works at the airport began in April 2018, and completion is scheduled for June this year from the previously scheduled date of February this year.
However, with the current situation, it is uncertain whether the deadline will be met. The government must resolve the funding issue and ensure that the construction works continue without further delays.
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