AFIEGO petitions AG to audit failures in Karuma dam project

Karuma Hydroelectric Power Station.

The Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) and 21 other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have petitioned the Auditor General’s (AG) office requesting it to conduct an independent forensic audit covering the $1.7b-Karuma dam project.

In their petition dated yesterday (Thursday), July 29, 2021, AFIEGO want the AG to audit the quality of the dam being built, its costs and causes of the over three-years commission delays and selection of the project developer.

The organisation also wants the AG to audit the responsibility of the developer vis-à-vis those of government, the terms and conditions of the project loan borrowed from the Exim Bank of China, the government institutions involved in supervision of the dam and their capacity, the reasons for the delays in the land acquisition for the transmission and evacuation lines and their impacts among others.

In these among others, AFIEGO cites several faults in the Karuma dam project that need to be audited for transparency.

“Available evidence indicates that the commissioning of the dam whose construction was launched in 2013 has been postponed to June 2022 under unclear circumstances. Yet to date, the dam is said to be at 98.9% completion, though available information indicates that the quality of the dam is lacking. The delays in commissioning of the dam are costly and available evidence indicates that the costs are being paid by the Ugandan government with taxpayers’ money.”

Adding: “We need to know who is responsible for the said delays and their cost implications. It is notable that the delays will have far-reaching implications on clean energy access and affordability for citizens as the delays are expected to lead to high electricity tariffs. Importantly, currently there is no market for the Karuma dam power. In the end, Ugandans, both direct power consumers and non-power consumers, will be forced through payment of higher taxes and inflated power tariffs to pay for deemed power”.

The CSO says the faults will affect the economy and the living standards of Ugandans.

“Information in the public domain shows that there are many transparency and accountability failures at all levels of the project including how the contractor or developer was selected, the quality of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and the project loan and repayment terms”.

Signed by AFIEGO Chief Executive Officer, the petition cites weaknesses in the supervision of the project by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) and the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL), the quality of the dam, the acquisition of the land for both the dam and all the three transmission lines to evacuate power from the dam to the distribution stations among others.

“We are concerned that the challenges will affect Ugandans environmentally, socially and economically. There is, therefore, need to urgently carry out an independent forensic audit of the project. The audit report will support efforts to promote transparency and accountability in the land acquisition in the transmission and evacuation lines and their impacts and others”.

AFIEGO wants the audit report to be submitted to parliament and made public to allow citizens to use the information to pressure parliament to use its oversight powers for action.

The Karuma Hydroelectric Power Station is a 600MW hydroelectric power project that once complete, it will be the largest power generating installation in Uganda.


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