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University of Rwanda Questioned on Failed Construction Projects

by Daniel Sabiiti
6:23 pm

UR Senior officials in Parliament.

Parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has cast doubts on the possibility of the University of Rwanda (UR) completing major structures which have left the government in loss of taxpayers’ money and also effect the quality of education as more delays are anticipated in future.

The comments were made this May 10, during a PAC hearing on UR’s Financial and Compliance audit statements indicated by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) report for the year ended June 30, 2023, which showed loopholes in the university managing construction contracts, following up and receiving structures and equipment that are either substandard or poorly done.

The Auditor General (AG),  Alexis Kamuhire, said that UR has to reflect more on the issue of construction and out of the Rwf6.9billion unnecessarily paid in contracts and considered as wasteful expenditure on construction projects, Rwf100million is placed on the UR alone and the amount has to be recovered.

For instance, payments were made (out of the required procedure) to contractors at the delayed and anticipated construction of the Veterinary Complex at UR-Nyagatare Campus which has remained stagnant for years though some works are being done by a new contractor- China Star Construction (Rwanda) Co.

In June 2014, UR-Nyagatare Campus signed a contract worth over Rwf3,7 billion with Joint Venture Expert Engineering Group & Cheon Kwang Engineering and Construction CO. for the design and construction of a five (5) level veterinary complex at the Nyagatare campus.

The contract execution period was eighteen (18) months and counting from the date of signing the contract, implies that the entire works were expected to be completed by 11 December 2015 but later, the works were abandoned by the contractor since December 2015 and amount of Rwf972,969,758 had already been paid to the contractor.

As highlighted in the previous audit report; UR did not comply with the legal payment modalities, and thus paid excess payment compared to the expected 6% payment (based on percentage of physical works done) to the contractor amount of over Rwf65,8 million in excess of the amount that should have been paid according to the payment modalities included in the contract.

During the PAC hearing, UR officials explained that at the time, the extra costs were minimal and calculated accordingly (slightly above 5.2%) with the fact that the works were satisfactory and approved by engineers,  but revealed that this has been revised in the new contract to retain the acceptable 6%.

On the part of the delays in having the campus completed to start training local vets, UR officials explained that the current delays are as a result of failure to acquire budget (over Rwf1billion) for extra unplanned construction activities (such as to direct waste lab water and putting in place an access road) which are fresh developments even though the initial classroom hall structures have been raised- near completion.

“This money was not planned and thus the slow down, but we wish to have the campus structure completed by the end of the year, the normal year cycle. We still have to install lifts which were procured but we cannot do so without the other infrastructure” said  Françoise Kayitare Tengera, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) in charge of Finance.

However, MP Beline Uwineza indicated that last time this was tabled in the PAC- it was only one issue- of revising the contract agreement (in a legal framework) and that has been resolved- thus asking why no progress made on the campus and instead asking for additional works.

UR insisted that by the end of the year the campus facility will be complete but MPs were not convinced that the facility remains incomplete and nothing on ground to make this possible.

MP Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye said: “According to our field visit this is not possible even in 6 months. What we need is a detailed road-map here, considering the claims that the facility will be complete in the remaining six months,”

On the issue of the UR–Gikondo Campus- formerly School of Finance and Banking (SFB), the hearing indicated UR was provisionally handed the construction works for modern lecture room, which had a market value of over Rwf1,1billion as per UR fixed assets register at 30 June 2023 but the provisional handover (from REAL Contractors- contractor and NEFACE &S (consultant) indicated snags including.

Correcting the cracks on the ceiling in the library (book shelves room and library office); the slope of the ramp (disabled way) does not match with standards; correcting defective doors locks and windows lockers; defective power switches and sockets; cracks appearing on the ceiling and on expansion joints; water ingress inside the building through windows and below external doors; and closing and opening windows was difficult and other doors cannot move.

Though these snugs were not corrected in the construction which was supposed to be done in a week after handover, there was over estimating of Bill of Quantities (BoQ) and paying the BoQs before works done – which means they gave operation capital to the contractor to do the job which they should have had funds for before hand.

The university authorities tried to hold their ground on some of the failed projects explaining why they paid more and how structural and snug aspects will be resolved- for instance DVC Tengera, explained that the funds were paid upfront because of the nature of the urgent job that was at hand (at Gikondo) and the type of contract that was single sourced from the reserve forces (who require an up front payment).

However, MP Christine Bakundufite said that this is an issue of failure to uphold payment modalities and whatever UR says or explains they cannot come out clean on these aspects which she said will or have in turn affected the quality of education.
MP Ntezimana stated that the sad part is that they never indicated this in the financial documents and there is a possibility of intentionally mismanaging theses processes with a hidden motive that needs to be uncovered.

AG Alexis Kamuhire said that this is why the PAC wants UR to review the whole system of how it implements its construction projects starting with the persons in this domain of managing the construction and questioning if they are suitable.

“We have a lot of money from your institution and correcting the structural issues is very demanding. How can we have a structure where the pillar has cracks? This is a big problem bigger than the 4 million and losses being made and this requires more than just responding but changing the way you conduct your business,” Kamuhire said.

In their commitment, the UR leadership agreed on improving the above issues and weaknesses in order to implement their goals and improving education quality in Rwanda.

 

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