Untold Story: How Dott Services Messed Up Strategic Mbale-Soroti Trade Road

The Mbale-Soroti is giving way less than two years after its completion

Mbale-Soroti Road is located in Eastern Uganda. It starts in Mbale Town, mind rolling North West up to Soroti.

The road is a continuation of the Tororo-Mbale Road, more about and is about 103km long.

From Mbale, the road snakes through Kachumbala (17kms), Bukedea (35kms), Atkur (44 Kms), Kumi (55kms), Koloin (74Kms), Kapir (77Kms) and Awoja (86 Kms) before reaching Soroti Town (102Kms).

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The major drainage feature along the road is the Awoja River/Swamp but several streams cross the road at various points.

It’s at Busiu Town that a make-or-break meeting was held that would later determine the future of the strategic 102 Km road.

It will be recalled that the road forms an important link as it is the main transport link between the port of Mombasa in Kenya (through Malaba) to the Northern part of Uganda (Soroti, Lira and Gulu).

Following the upgrading of Soroti-Dokolo-Lira road to bitumen standard, the traffic on the road, especially heavy commercial vehicles increased substantially as the road formed a shorter alternative to the Malaba-Kampala-Karuma-Gulu road to Northern Uganda and South Sudan.

When the former leadership of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) met officials from Dott services, the contractor of the road, and Gibbs – the Project Manager, one would have thought they all had patriotic intentions.

But their commitment to a superb road aimed at boosting Uganda’s regional trade and ease movement of labour across East Africa would face a big test.

A tour of Mbale-Soroti road now leaves one in tears.

During hot weather, blobs of bitumen form on the road, making the road surface slippery.

Some of the road sections have collapsed while potholes have emerged.

Donors have since suggested reconstruction of the road due to the escalating cost in maintenance.

The poor materials used on the road

The poor materials used on the road

“Bleeding” was also identified on a number of sections along the road. Bleeding or flushing is shiny, black surface film of asphalt on the road surface caused by upward movement of asphalt in the pavement surface.

Common causes of bleeding are too much asphalt in asphalt concrete, hot weather, low space air void content and quality of asphalt, all pointing to possible poor workmanship.

So what went wrong?

An investigation by ChimpReports indicates Dott Services was on October 22, 2010 handed the Shs 46bn contract to construct the road within 18 months.

The contractor’s scope of work included widening the existing carriageway to a 6.3m carriageway and 1.5m shoulders.

Dott Services were tasked to ensure “mechanical modification of the existing gravel base with crushed rock material to form the new base across both the carriageway and shoulders.”

The road construction company would as well work on “drainage by cleaning and extending culverts, adding new culverts where necessary, outfall drains, side drains and cut-off drains.”

Dott was also mandated to have in place “double surface dressing across both the carriageway and shoulder; carry out ancillary works including road marking, traffic signs and other miscellaneous works necessary for the successful completion of the project.”

Some parts of the drainage system along the road have since caved in

Some parts of the drainage system along the road have since caved in


According to leaked records from the Ministry of Works, two years after Dott signed the contract (November 2012), the Project Manager, Gibb Africa discovered that the contractor had not fully mobilised equipment for the work.

Gibb wrote: “The contractor has always claimed that he has fully mobilised equipment as per the minimum given by UNRA at the time of tender… The contractor did not mobilize any major equipment during the month.”

It was also discovered that Dotts Services had not provided enough basic furniture and equipment after opening the second work front based at Bukedea for the Project Manager’s facilities.

Despite opening the Project Manager’s laboratory at Kapir, “critical equipments” remained outstanding.

This implied that supervisors of the road construction could not satisfactorily execute their duties.

The bad road is also a danger to road users

The bad road is also a danger to road users

It was also discovered that the total quantity of G30 material in the approved borrow pits was 170,000 (cubic meter) cu.m, against a total requirement of about 350,000 cu.m for subgrade, sub-base and base.

Borrow pits provide gravel for maintenance of the existing road, improved subgrade, G30 quality gravel for subbase and G30 quality gravel for mechanically modified base.

In regard to crushed material, Gibbs found them wanting.

For example the available crushed rock material was 55, 000 cu.m (coarse – 24,000, revised grading – 31,000) against the total required of about 11,100 cu.m of compacted volume.

Dott Services had a 20mm aggregate of 4,000 cu.m against the required -16, 000 cu.m and 10 mm chippings of 32,000 cu.m instead of 11,000 cu.m.

Gibb concluded that the “material does not meet specifications for grading” and required “screening before use.”

While the road was expected to be completed on October 7, 2012 as the revised contract completion date, Dott Services was yet to finalise work.

Dott Speaks Out

Dott Services in response blamed its challenges to delayed issue of strip map, preliminary repair works instructed on the existing road not being part of the original contract and “civil disturbances in Kampala affecting the supply of materials to the site at the start.”

The contractor also blamed “shortages of fuel both in Uganda and Kenya which affected supply too his works at the beginning.”

UNRA says it cannot afford to pay for a poorly done road

UNRA says it cannot afford to pay for a poorly done road

However, during the inspection of the road, Gibb discovered that low equipment utilisation, poor project management, inadequate equipment and frequent equipment breakdown were responsible for the slow progress and performance of the contractor.

Due to the bad state of the road, UNRA insists the road needs to be reconstructed and that Dott must hand over a fully complete road for payment.

Upon visiting the damaged road, UNRA Executive Director said the country deserved better,

The contractor substantially completed the civil works major items for the staged reconstruction of Mbale – Soroti Road on 3 May 2015.

In her letter to Parliament, Kagina said, “towards the end of the Defects Liability Period, an inspection of the works was carried out and it was noted that some of the defects had not been rectified and there were also outstanding works.”

She added: “The contract provided for a DLP of 365 days, however sub-clause 35.1 of the Conditions of Contract provides for an extension of this period as long as the defects remain to be corrected.”

Kagina further revealed that Dott Services were yet to ask for the inspection of the completed works which is a requirement before he can be issued with a Defects Liability Certificate.

“It is only after issuing the defects liability certificate that the final account can be processed. The outstanding Payments are before Court for determination,” said Kagina.

In our Wednesday report, we will provide a detailed account on how Dott Services fell short of complying with the Project Manager’s advice to use better materials that would have seen Eastern Uganda realise one of the best roads in the country. 


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