Since the year 2018, AFIC has been training civil society organizations and community monitors on public contracts’ monitoring. Before AFIC’s interventions, the phenomenon of contracts’ monitoring was unheard of and no citizen could relate to contract information. Through continuous coaching and mentoring, citizens have been equipped with the capacity to request and use contract information to monitor government projects.
The sustained interest and continuous vigilance of the residents in Matanda and Kasheregenyi sub-counties in Kanungu and Kabale districts respectively led to the demolition of sections of structures built using sub-standard materials during the upgrade of two health centers from level II to level III. The demolition of the structures arose from the contract monitoring engagements of community monitors trained by AFIC in contract monitoring.
Riky Building Materials Ltd. entered into a contractual agreement with Kanungu District Local Government to upgrade Matanda Health Centre II to a Health Centre III facility. This agreement was signed on March 15, 2019 and was expected to run for 6 months. The same company entered into a similar contractual arrangement with Kabale District Local Government to upgrade Kasheregyenyi Health Centre II to a Health Centre III. It is at these two facilities that shoddy works on the walls and other sections of the brick works were reported.
This construction firm was not new in these districts and had in the past taken advantage of citizens to ‘cut corners’ to save costs. It is believed that this was one of the reasons the community was interested in their work.
“AFIC had just been to Kanungu and Kabale districts preaching the gospel of open contracting, transparency, disclosure and the role citizens play in the successful delivery of public services,” said Mathius Mwesige, the AFIC Programme Officer who spearheaded the training and mentoring of the community monitors.
Many of these concepts, though not new, were alien to the residents of Matanda and Kasheregyenyi, because their leaders had not been a beacon in these principles when dealing with contractors.
“We noticed the broken blocks after they had been used on the structure, on scrutiny, we saw others breaking up as they were set out to dry under the shed. By the time we instructed the company to remove the defective blocks and to stop using them, more than 600 blocks had already been made and were drying at the site. It is unclear why the contractor chose to make the concrete blocks at the site, and weak ones at that, but it could have been the quest for the contractor to make more profit at the expense of the beneficiaries,” said Nelson Naturinda, the LC3 Chairperson for Kihiihi sub-county, in Kanungu district.
It is also reported that the contractor mixed the sub-standard materials with high-quality materials procured from Mbarara.
Naturinda added that this discovery prompted the district leadership to constitute a Health User Monitoring Committee where they tasked the chairperson of the committee to make regular visits to the construction site.
On his part, the site Engineer at Matanda Health Centre; Mr. Francis Ahabwe indicated that they noticed their mistake even before the community complained.
“I want to clearly state that we noticed the faulty blocks and started the process of replacing them before the community complained, all those blocks have since been removed and replaced under the supervision of all the concerned parties, we are a transparent entity,” said Francis.
He added that despite signing the contract to start works on March 15, they started works at the facility on March 7, to maximize the time available which was wrong.
The two contracts managed by Riky had initially been associated with elements of shoddy work resulting from the sub-standard building materials (blocks) that were being made on-site by the contractor, an issue that, according to Ahabwe was noticed two months after the start of the contract.
Community Monitors initially identified the use of poor quality building materials available at the site and those used in the construction during one of their contracts monitoring exercises. These gaps were identified at both sites in Kabale and Kanungu district, specifically sites being managed by Riky.
In Kanungu, these concerns were reported by the monitors to the Matanda LCIII chairperson who immediately notified the district engineer. The district engineer undertook a monitoring visit to the site to verify the findings. Several findings and recommendations resulted from this verification; i) demolition of some sections of the buildings at both sites effected, ii) the contractor to stop the manufacture of building materials at the sites iii) use of quality materials and only use blocks from Mbarara and iv) have the Health User Management Committee chairperson to be stationed on-site every day to ensure the right mix of the right ratios.
Construction work was halted for 10 days to ensure the contractor adjusted to the new guidelines.
The contractor’s behavior was similarly observed during the contract monitoring at Kasheregyenyi Health Centre III. The monitors reported shoddy work to the Kabale Deputy RDC, who also monitored the construction site together with the district team. Similar recommendations were made by the Kanungu district engineer. After the district monitoring exercise, the Deputy RDC mentioned the findings and recommendations of the monitoring exercise during a radio talk show.
The contract monitoring exercise provided information that translated into actions that saved the taxpayer a great deal of money and emboldened citizens to have an active role in the management of public funds in their sub-counties. An action that would not have been achieved had the citizens in Kanungu ignored their civic rights to monitor public contracts.