The completion of Hoima International Airport hangs in balance after the contractor halted the construction works citing lack of funding from the government.
Uganda Radio Network has reliably established that the contractor, a joint venture of Israeli-British firms, Shikun & Binui International-SBI/Colas limited halted the construction works at the airport two weeks ago following government’s failure to allocate them more 126 billion shillings to complete the remaining works.
Amos Muriisa, the communications manager at SBC told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Monday that the contractor has severally engaged the government to allocate them more funding to help them expedite the completion process of the airport in vain.
He says the contractor cannot continue working without resources despite several appeals to the government, a thing he says has compelled the contractor to halt operations of the entire construction works at the airport until the government responds.
He says during the COVID-19 pandemic, the contractor faced a lot of challenges in terms of variations in prices for the airport construction materials yet they had not planned for such anomalies, that he says went beyond their budget.
According to Muriisa, the funds are needed to complete the control tower and other operations at the airport.
Fred Byamukama, the State Minister for Works while on a field visit at the airport on Monday was shocked when he found construction works halted by the contractor. According to Byamukama, government is currently investigating the contractor for allegedly exaggerating prices for some construction materials meant for the construction of the airport. He says the contractor is suspected to be conniving with some top government officials to swindle money meant for the construction of the airport.
Byamukama says recently, the contractor under unclear circumstances demanded for extra 126 billion shillings from the government to help them complete works of the airport yet government earlier allocated the contractor all the money it needed to construct the airport.
Byamukama explains that currently, the government is negotiating with the contractor on how construction works can go on, adding that if negotiations fail, government will consider terminating the contract and hire another contractor to finish the remaining civil works at the airport adding that government wants value for money in the entire project.
According to Byamukama, government has cleared €264,000,000 (Two hundred sixty four million Euros) needed by the contractor for the entire project wondering why the project should stall tasking the contractor to properly give accountability of the money paid.
Kadir Kirungi, the Hoima LCV Chairperson says halting the construction works at the airport will greatly affect people who had been employed by the contractor, calling on the government to cooperate with the contractor and harmonise the issue.
The USD 309 million Airport financed by Standard Chartered Bank will have a capacity of accommodating four cargo planes at ago, a fire station, an apron, a control tower, accommodation facilities for the workers and Parallel Runways,Taxi way, air rescue firefighting house, power substation house, communications and navigation systems, perimeter fence and air ground illumination system among others.
The airport will handle both cargo and passenger flights because it has a multipurpose terminal building.
Construction of the runway, which is 3.5 kilometres long and 45 meters wide is 98 complete, while the cargo terminal building, the limited-capacity passenger terminal building, the air rescue firefighting house, power substation house and the air ground lighting system are all between 89 to 90 percent complete.
The Airport is one of the key support infrastructures for the next course of the fast-paced activities leading to commercial oil production. Currently works at the airport stands at 89 percent.
Construction works at the airport commenced in April 2018 and is expected to be complete in June this year.