July 11, 2018—Allen Kagina, executive director of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), has raised concerns over the lack of capacity shown by local contractors which limits the promotion of local content in the road construction sector.
“Most of the local companies lack the capacity and we cannot entrust a national project to them, because they will produce poor quality work,” Kagina told members of the Uganda Engineers Registration Board (UERB) and the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers (UIPE) in a meeting held at UNRA offices in Kyambogo on Wednesday.
Kagina said as much as UNRA has in place policies to promote and help local contractors to participate in development of roads, they still fail to compete, because most of them lack technical capacity and experience together with the qualified personnel to bid for high profile contracts.
Kagina heads an agency that handles the award of some of the government’s biggest contracts. She asked locals to step up their efforts by investing in expertise and capacity if they are to have any chance competing with foreigners.
“Our footprint in our country is very small. There are very many foreign countries which are reaping from these projects and taking away the profits to their own countries. We must build capacity of our own engineers otherwise we will always be hostages to these foreign contractors,” she said.
Her meeting with the engineers, was intended to create a discussion between UNRA and the two umbrella bodies to see how they can exploit mutual benefits and improve the national road sector.
On the other hand, the engineers and representatives of contractors are of the view that UNRA should be more realistic with the bidding demands for locals and balance the desire with reality if they are to help the local contractors.
“Our companies have just joined this sector and we cannot have the capacity and experience of the foreign contractors. There is need to balance desire with reality if we want to promote local content,” one consulting engineer sai.
However, Hillary Onek, disaster preparedness minister and the UIPE Patron said the Ugandan engineers are even much better than the foreign engineers but lack exposure and access to supportive modern equipment where they can train from like their foreign counterparts.
He said, “We are developing a training centre where our local engineers can train and receive skills to be able to compete favourably. These young men are brilliant and if trained can even do much better.”