Chinese Firm starts work on Railway network standard gauge

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The awarding of contract to upgrade and expand Uganda’s railway network to standard gauge, to a Chinese firm China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) has taken new twist with some government officials who have been lobbying for the other firm, state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC)refusing to take defeat lying down.

On Friday, CHEC announced they have embarked on work on the railway line to try and catch up with Kenya who is already progressing work.

Reliable information on the other hand indicates that powerful government officials who have been lobbying for CCECC have refused to take the decision in good faith.It has emerged that government over turned CCECC because of the suspected corruption and the integrity of its agents and lobbyists. One of them, a powerful Minister together with his son-in-law one Albert, took CCECC officials to see the president, a move sources intimate rubbed the President the wrong way.   According to inside sources, the President does not want these people involved in the project because of their suspected corruption history in Uganda.

CCECC had earlier in 2012 been given the deal, estimated to be worth $8b (about sh20trillion) which was later cancelled by the Government.

Recently, upon instruction from President Museveni to investigate the delays in choosing the right firm for the deal, AmamaMbabazi said he had asked the IGG to probe the possible Bribery allegation by government officials who had interest in CCECC taking the deal.  Media reports had quoted the President as saying that somebody stole minutes of his meeting with CHEC group, a sign of something fishy.

On Wednesday, Eng. John Byabagambi the state minister for works and representatives of the CHEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which in principle gives the deal to the firm with Byabagambi saying there would be no further delays in the construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) from Malaba to Kampala and Bukasa port.

However, given the incessant efforts by CCECC and their lobbyists, it remains un clear if CHEC’s contract will proceed with no hindrances.

According to the agreement, CHEC will work closely with the UPDF Engineering Brigade and also construct a polytechnic school in Uganda for continuous training of army officers in technical and engineering skills.

A statement issued by CHEC’s representatives also expressed commitment to the above MoU singling out that the Government of South Sudan has also selected the company to upgrade her railway line.

It has also emerged that government preferred working with CHEC because of their commitment to train UPDF according to the Chinese model to manage strategic infrastructure.

The East African Community member states have set March 2018 as the target for the upgrading of the regional railway network to standard gauge system.

CHEC officials have said as part of the partnership with UPDF, the company has embarked on preparations to build a pioneering UPDF Corps of Engineers by training army officers in infrastructure development.

Works Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the awarding of the deal to CHEC technically puts to an end the fight between the two Chinese companies that had put government in a fix and also sucked in ministers.

CHEC is a 13 billion dollar company, 100 percent Chinese government owned and one of the biggest building Company in China.