Parliament’s Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation has called for the expeditious completion of the Shs325 billion Technology Engineering and Innovation Centre in Kiruhura District, western Uganda.
The project is financed by the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) of China US$84.7 million loan acquired in 2016.
The committee chairperson, Remigio Achia, said equipment to support the establishment of the National Institute of Technopreneurship (NIT) also referred to as the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation Skills Enhancement Project (NSTEI-SEP), has been brought to the site before completion of construction works, putting government at risk.
‘It is now over a year since this equipment was delivered by the contractor. Their warranty and guarantee will expire before they are tested or used which will make repairing them expensive for government; what was the sequence of events? Why did the equipment come first before the centre was set up?” asked Remigio.
MP Remigio and his committee were on a fact-finding visit to assess progress of the loan absorption and other government initiatives in the region between 16 and 18 November 2022.
A fleet of machinery and equipment totaling to 217 units was received from the project contractor a year ago. The equipment is in the parking yard awaiting completion of the training centre which is scheduled for May 2023.
The Shadow Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Gorreth Namugga, voiced her frustration with the long and unwinding nature of construction works, which she said is worsening the country’s unemployment crisis, which would have been improved by the operationalisation of such centres.
“…the loan was signed in 2016. It is now six years and construction for the training centre is still on going,” she said.
The shadow minister, also Mawogola County South MP, added that in order to manage unemployment, such projects must be prioritised and completed on schedule.
Upon completion of the project, local companies which have been unable to participate in key infrastructure projects due to lack of heavy duty engineering equipment will soon benefit from the operationalisation of a fleet of equipment and machinery procured for training, leasing and rental.
The project coordinator, Eng. Apolot Okimat, said the facility being setup is to support locally based Ugandan companies to undertake key infrastructural projects by building their capability to participate in key infrastructure projects in the country.
The project engineer, Denis Kiyingi, told MPs that the initiative will also support the development of functional infrastructural facilities in districts and municipalities.
Eng. Kiyingi added that the centre is intended to enhance the innovativeness of Ugandans through innovation and design hubs which will act as learning and production workshops, and that once completed, the centre will retool and up-skill over 1,500 Ugandans every year. The trainees shall do on job training to develop working confidence.
These will include the youth, craftsmen and construction technicians, machinery operators, automobile engineers, agricultural engineering and mechanisation, industrial and civil construction.
Apac District Woman MP Betty Engola asked the project implementers to furnish the committee with trainee recruitment procedures to check if it caters for all regions of the country.
The committee also visited the Banana Industrial Research and Development Centre and the sericulture farm (silk production) in Bushenyi and Sheema districts respectively.