MPs inspect schools

Parliament’s Committee on National Economy has embarked on a tour of Uganda Inter-governmental Fiscal Transfer Reform (UgIFT) Programme funded seed secondary schools as a benchmark for approving a further US$90 million (Shs324b) loan to build more schools.

Led by Chairperson, Hon John Bosco Ikojo, the Committee is assessing the absorption of the UgIFT facility to inform its recommendation to Parliament on whether the request to borrow the US$90 million loan from the International Development Association of the World Bank.

Under the Uganda Secondary Education Expansion Project (USEEP), government intends to use the US$90 million loan to construct a school in 108 sub-counties across the country. This is in line with its policy to have a government school in every sub-county in the country.

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The committee visited Maaji and Lakwana Seed Secondary Schools in Adjumani and Omoro Districts respectively, where delays by contractors and centralisation of the tendering process being the main frustrations of local leaders.

In Maaji Seed Secondary School, despite releases by the Ministry of Education and Sports for the quarter, the contractor is stuck, with local leaders saying they abandoned their sites for apparent lack of funds to continue with works, since payment is based on works completed.

“Because of these perennial delays, the district should give the contractor up to December to complete constructions, and if they fail, the district should not extend the contract since the contractor will have failed,” said MP Ikojo.

Mr Ramadhan Ikule, a director at Achor United Traders Limited, who were awarded the tender to construct the school, said since last payments were remitted in June, they have been having financial stresses.

“The project is paid according to certificate [of phased completion]; the last payment we had was in June,” he said.

But MP Moses Attan Okia (FDC, Soroti City East) blamed contracts tendered at the centre for the challenge, which he said overwhelms contractors due to the numerous sites they work on, overstretching their capabilities.

For decentralization to properly function, MP Attan recommended that all such contracts be an entirely local government affair.

At Lakwana Seed Secondary School in Omoro District, officials said the contractors have been perennially absent since the death of one the company’s director, a move the legislators condemned since the project is not awarded to an individual, but a distinct legal entity capable of acting in its own name, whether or not its founders are living.

With payments of over Shs1.2 billion made to the contractor out of Shs1.8 billion, MPs and district leaders expressed concerns about the prospects of completing the project within the required timelines.

Omoro District Vice Chairperson, Stephen Opio said contractors are frustrating and unsupervisable because they don’t owe it to the Districts that they are executing the contracts.

Rule 155 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure require the Committee on National Economy to assess the absorption of previous loans as a precondition for voting more funds to similar projects.

In a brief to Parliament, Finance Minister, Hon Matia Kasaija said projections are that 113,000 students will gain access to newly built classrooms and school facilities, while 77,000 others will go to school courtesy of new schools constructed.

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