• Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

UGANDA, Lamwo | Real Muloodi News | The Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) programs have been hindered by shoddy construction work and corruption.

In late 2021, Agoro Seed Secondary School in Lamwo District witnessed the completion and commissioning of two new classroom blocks constructed by Handy Services Limited.

The company had been entrusted with the task of building two blocks of three classrooms and three blocks of five-stance pit toilets at the school.

For these projects, Handy Services Limited received a sum of USh600 million from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) under the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) in the Financial Year 2018/2019.

However, just a year after their commissioning, cracks began to appear in the newly constructed classroom blocks, prompting Lamwo District authorities to raise concerns.

In an August 29, 2022 letter, Mr Alex Felix Majeme, the Lamwo District Chief Administrative Officer, accused Mr Charles Otim, the DRDIP engineering assistant for the district, of gross negligence that resulted in financial loss.

“The veranda of two blocks of two classrooms in Agoro Seed Secondary School constructed earlier by Handy Services Limited is not reinforced thus causing massive cracks. Failure to keenly observe this and draw my attention technically amounted to gross negligence of duty,” part of the letter reads.

The letter also highlighted the absence of the Chief Administrative Officer’s signature on the certificate of completion, triggering an investigation into how the contractor obtained the certificate.

Mr Majeme added: “For a certificate to be handed over, it must be signed by the CAO and that certificate doesn’t have my signature. So, I am investigating to find out how the contractor got the certificate of completion.”

Handy Services Limited’s Director, Mr Denis Olara, responded by assuring that efforts were underway to rectify the defects in the building.

“I have not failed to address it; I have invited engineers from the district and OPM so that we have a thorough analysis. You know Agoro is not a simple area so we are in the process and we come up with a recommendation which we shall put in place,” Mr Olara said in September 2022.

He stated that engineers from the district and OPM had been invited to conduct a thorough analysis and provide recommendations for remedial actions.

Additionally, Handy Services Limited was awarded the contract for the second phase of the projects, worth USh550 million.

Unfortunately, issues plaguing the implementation of the DRDIP programs extend beyond shoddy construction work.

Reports indicate a range of problems, including procurement irregularities, potential ghost projects, and negligence from both the DRDIP team and contractors involved.

An internal report by the OPM on DRDIP in 2022 revealed that three unapproved sub-projects worth USh2.77 billion were executed in Lamwo District, contrary to the DRDIP Operation Manual, which requires OPM approval for all sub-project proposals.

The report also highlighted the construction and fencing of a non-existent community resource centre at Palabek Gem Zone, shedding light on possible procurement irregularities in an USh250 million sub-project in Yumbe District, where the contracted company lacked capacity and abandoned the work.

Further scrutiny revealed that OPM officials rejected some contractors approved by community committees, instead awarding contracts to companies without community consent, which violated the DRDIP Operation Manual’s guidelines for sub-project implementation.

The OPM report indicated that USh2.75 billion allocated to 66 sub-projects in Obongi, Arua, and Terego districts between 2018 and 2021 remained unutilised.

These sub-projects were intended to improve infrastructure in the respective districts.

About DRDIP Program

DRDIP, implemented by the OPM, aims to address the social, economic, and environmental needs of both host communities and displaced populations, including refugees and returnees.

The program seeks to enhance access to basic social services, expand economic opportunities, and improve environmental management in 15 refugee-hosting districts across Uganda.

In the Financial Year 2021/22, the Central Government allocated USh211.9 billion to the 15 refugee-hosting districts for the implementation of various DRDIP activities.

The OPM released USh142.86 billion, which was subsequently disbursed by the districts to 192 sub-projects focused on constructing, rehabilitating, or expanding basic social services such as education and healthcare facilities, as well as economic infrastructure like roads and market structures.

However, the Auditor General’s consolidated report to Parliament in 2022 raised concerns regarding the implementation of some DRDIP projects.

The report revealed that OPM failed to provide supporting documents for several projects, including the community centre and fencing at Palabek Gem Zone One, the Sludge Drying Beds sub-project for faecal matter management, and the construction of a dormitory at Paluda Secondary School.

Additionally, it was discovered that construction activities for 182 sub-projects funded with USh135.41 billion in 15 districts had not commenced by the end of the Financial Year 2021/2022.

Only four sub-projects in Arua and Koboko districts, receiving USh1.4 billion, were progressing at that time, while contractors for six sub-projects in Kamwenge and Koboko districts, receiving a total of USh6.054 billion, had fully implemented their projects.

Furthermore, the Auditor General’s report highlighted that none of the 309 sub-projects under the sustainable environmental management component had commenced in the 15 districts, despite the OPM releasing USh19.703 billion for this purpose.

The report also revealed that, among the 85 infrastructure and sustainable environment sub-projects funded in the previous two financial years, 32 infrastructure sub-projects valued at USh11.44 billion remained unused.

Additionally, 179 sustainable environments sub-projects valued at USh9.949 billion had stalled, and 70 other sub-projects worth USh3.35 billion were under investigation by the Inspectorate of Government.

Regarding livelihoods programs, the OPM released USh29.78 billion, which was disbursed to 668 sub-project groups in 13 districts to support small businesses, skills-based jobs, and service enterprises.

However, a review of progress reports revealed that 307 sub-project groups in eight districts, receiving Shs12.84 billion, had not yet commenced their activities.

When approached for comment, Mr Joseph Olanyo, the DRDIP communication officer, declined to respond, stating that official media comments were limited to the program’s director, Dr Robert Limlim. However, Dr Limlim did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him.

In response to the Auditor General’s queries, the OPM admitted that it had undertaken procurement of service providers without involving the communities as required.

The OPM pledged to initiate an investigation into the transfer of funds for the design and construction of sludge drying beds and the construction of a dormitory at Paludah Secondary School.

The accounting officer of the OPM explained that the funds allocated for the construction of the community centre and fencing at Palabek Gem Zone One Block 1 were under investigation by the Inspectorate of Government.

In April 2022, the Inspectorate of Government relaunched the project after recovering USh800 million out of the USh1.2 billion initially allocated.

Mr Muwanga said: “Shs800 million was recovered from an individual who had irregularly withdrawn funds from the subproject account between November 9, 2021 and April 30, 2022.”

The Deputy Inspector General of Government, Ms Patricia Achan Okiria, attributed the delays to corruption.

“This money had been stolen by individuals from OPM, the Inspectorate of Government was able to recover the money and we are now launching the project so that this money can be put back to good use,” Ms Okiria said.

Local officials in Lamwo District, such as Mr Osborn Oceng, the resident district commissioner, emphasised the need for the OPM to enforce stricter measures and hold staff accountable.

Mr Sisto Oyet Ocen, the Lamwo District chairman, urged political leaders to monitor such projects more closely to prevent the misappropriation of public funds by implementing partners.

She said: “Political leaders in the district must be keen on monitoring such projects otherwise using partners will continue to do their own things and steal public funds.”


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