EXCLUSIVE: Museveni New Letter Exposes Rot at Karuma, Isimba Dams

President Museveni has expressed shock that senior engineers at the Ministry of Energy abdicated their duties during the inspection of construction works at the multi-billion dollar Karuma and Isimba electricity dams; actions that could see the cost rise by over 30 percent and delay commissioning of the much-needed power projects.

ChimpReports this week exclusively broke the news of the firing of Eng Paul Mubiru (Director Energy Resources), advice Eng. Henry Bidasala Igaga (Project Coordinator Karuma) and Ms. Cecilia Menva (Project Coordinator Isimba Dam) over neglect of duty.

Now, physician in a new confidential letter dated April 5, Museveni told Energy Minister Irene Muloni that after deep investigations he had managed to verify “disturbing reports about the shoddy works at the two dams,” adding, “to a large extent these reports are actually true.”

On Karuma dam, said Museveni, “defects are visible in the concrete of the dam and intake structures through cracks, honeycombs, cold joints and unsealed holes where protruding formwork supports were being cut from the concrete etc.”

He said on Isimba Dam, “defects on the two draft tubes which are being assembled in position are observed through numerous unnecessary cuts and welds, bends on outer sections of the installed draft tubes etc and defects in concrete as those observed at Karuma.”

He adds: “All these, I am told, if not urgently addressed properly, may have a serious effect on the safety, reliability, stability and durability of the dams in the long run.”

It will be recalled that Infratech was contracted by the Government of Uganda to supervise the EPC Contractor at both Karuma and Isimba dams.

All infrastructure projects are supervised by an external engineering consultancy and go by the title of ‘Owners engineer’.

Major problems

A highly placed source told this website on Friday morning that at Karuma, the grouting into the rock where the tunnel passes – in what a layman would call a porcupine formation, has a problem.

This formation is needed to anchor the tunnel into the surrounding rock structure so that the force of the water does not sweep away the tunnel.

Interestingly, Karuma’s tunnelling design is similar to Ethiopia’s Gibe 11 dam in Ethiopia which was washed away one week after commissioning.

With a price tag of 374 million Euros and a capacity of 420 megawatts, Gilgel Gibe 2 was at the time Ethiopia’s biggest power plant.

After its commissioning by the late Ethiopian premier Meles Zenawi, the project’s core component, a 26-kilometer-long tunnel, collapsed, shutting down operations.

The repair works lasted three years.

Museveni furious

In his letter, Museveni told Muloni that “the completed two blocks of 12 units each purported to be part of the employers’ camp but lacking ventilation and inadequate space for rooms, no emergency fire escape routes etc. How could this happen? Didn’t we have any supervision from government on these facilities?”


The President, who maintains this fifth term in office will ensure a massive crackdown on impunity, said most of the shortcomings have been raised repeatedly by the consultant (owner’s Engineer) in the numerous communications to the contractor in 2015 and that these communications to the Contractors were always copied to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development “but no decision has been taken by the ministry to address those issues.”

“Similarly, the Uganda Electricity Generation Company (UEGCL) as the implementation agency for the project has continued to raise these issues through their Project Management Consultations (PMCs) and lately the panel of experts (PoEs) but the ministry has continued with her INACTION and yet work on the projects is continuing,” fumed Museveni.

“We cannot allow this to continue on these very important, government flagship projects.”


Following these revelations, Museveni directed that UECGL which will also be the operator and manager of the completed dams to be given “full contract administration powers over the projects.”

The high level of Project Steering Committee (PCS) should be properly constituted and operationalised to continuously offer strategic guidance to the implementation of projects, Museveni ordered.

Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Fred Kagambe-Kaliisa had earlier disclosed that construction work was in the range of 27 – 30 percent complete in terms of civil works completion and that significant progress was made in other critical aspects such as excavation of the powerhouse.

He made the assessment in February during an on-spot field inspection of both Karuma and Isimba Hydropower Projects.

“The powerhouse excavation is near completion. That is the most important aspects of the construction of underground power systems and stations like Karuma,” Kabagambe-Kaliisa assessed.

It remains unclear why Museveni spared Kabagambe who is said to be part of the bigger problem at the energy ministry.


In a very angry tone, Museveni told Muloni to “instruct immediately” the Owner’s Engineer – Energy Infratech to “withdraw the current project management teams on both sites and deploy very well experienced and committed professionals to properly supervise the projects.”

The head of state further instructed Muloni increase “technical supervision” and enhance deployment of more manpower as site inspectors, quality control specialists and Health, Security, Environment inspectors to properly ensure the quality of works, health and safety of workers and the environment.

Museveni also demanded a proper investigation and analysis of the draft tubes at Isimba which have been installed in position and if found necessary “removed and new ones ordered and pre-assembled before they are installed. The others which are not yet installed in position should be pre-assembled at the workshop before they are installed.”

Museveni also wants a comprehensive investigation and analysis of the visible cracks in the concrete of the dam structure at Karuma and get to their cause and the “effect these cracks will have on the durability of the dam and intake structure so that the necessary corrections are done immediately.”

The contractors, he advised, should be given a “stern warning against doing shoddy work and to properly observe the contract specifications and employer’s requirements.”

Changes from the basic design should not be done without any proper justification and approval by the employer, added Museveni.

“Why is there no concrete cooling plant at Karuma for instance? In any case, these changes should be able to benefit the employer by improving the project quality, reduce project time and or reduce cost without compromising the project quality.”

On top of ordering for the suspension of the three engineers, Museveni concluded his letter with rage: “I demand that these measures be taken expeditiously so that the projects implementation timelines are not significantly affected.”

Significance of dams

Karuma Hydropower Project is located in Kiryadongo district, which is also partly home of Karuma Wildlife Reserve and is planned to produce 600 megawatts of electricity.

Contracted by M/S Sinohydro Corporation, a Chinese corporation, Karuma dam will cost $1.4bn minus interest paid on the staggering loan from a Chinese bank.

The Isimba Power project is undertaken by China International Water and Electric Corporation.

The project will cost USD 567,738,990.96 financed by the government of Uganda and a concessional loan from the Export-import Bank of China.

The 188MW Isimba hydropower project is one of the most important hydropower projects that the Ugandan Government has initiated on the River Nile, to ease the severe power shortages in Uganda, and accelerate the development of local economy.

Considered to be the fourth biggest hydropower project in Uganda, it is expected to generate hydroelectric power at 68 cents per kWh, the lowest in East Africa.

It is expected to generate 1,039GWh of electricity a year and increase the country’s total electric capacity by 23 percent.

President Museveni recently said the two dams being constructed concurrently would contribute to the national grid and that Ugandans will have access to cheap power that will enable them run their small scale industries and boost their incomes.



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