Traders in Mbarara district will again have to wait longer before they can occupy the highly anticipated Mbarara Central Market, after its completion date was extended to January 2021.
This is the third such extension of the project after the contractor, Roko Construction Company, failed to deliver on the original February 2020 due date.
The Shs 21bn project is being implemented by ROKO Construction Company under the Markets and Agriculture Trade Improvement Project (MATIP) that aims to improve agricultural trade.
Mbarara City Principal Commercial Officer, James Agaba, blamed the delay on the COVID-19 pandemic which paralyzed site works and hampered purchase of materials.
“ROKO had placed an order for some materials from China but when COVID-19 hit harder some factories had to close. Even the team that was supposed to inspect the materials before shipment from China could not proceed since the airports were closed at the time,” he added
He revealed that following the easing of lockdown, the inspection had been done and shipping of the materials commenced.
In light of this, Agaba said the contractor has been given till end of January 2021 to complete works or else trigger a fine of 0.5% of the total project cost per extra day in liquidated damages.
“According to the terms of contract, Roko is supposed to lose 100 million per day beyond 31st of January 2021, a charge they are supposed to pay to the central government for not finishing the market in the agreed time” Agaba vowed
However, Eng. Willie Swanepoel, the Contract Operations Manager Roko Construction Company suggested that the delays were caused by the central government that has been slow in releasing project’s money.
“I could not risk employing so many workers when there is no money to pay them; neither would you make orders for the materials when you are not sure of what to pay after deliveries, so even government is to blame,” said Swanepoel.
The Principal Commercial Officer, however, insists that government is ready to pay the contractor once the project is completed, adding that government has been extra careful to avoid situations that would lead to litigation or extra fines.
“Government is well aware of the consequences of breaching the contract. For instance if the contractor is frustrated by government, the contractor is supposed to charge government as well, as embedded in the contract agreement,” Agaba said.
Donozio Kibanda, Secretary for Publicity Mbarara Central Market Vendors Association said that the continuous delays in completing the market are a nightmare for the traders who were temporarily relocated to the municipality’s Independence Park grounds to allow construction works to commence.
The City Principal Commercial Officer appealed to the central market vendors, now based at Independence Park to remain patient, saying the market should be done in a couple of months.
“The market is in its final stages- at 90% completion, according to a previous report. We are only left with a few things which we should be able to finish up in the remaining time, and then can traders occupy their market,” says Agaba.
Some of the remaining construction works at the facility include installation of water tanks, roofing and tiling.
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