The construction of a Shs16b three-star hotel at the Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institutes (UHTTI) in Jinja district is nearing completion, Eng. Michael Pande, the Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project (CEDP) lead engineer, has said.
CEDP is a World Bank funded project that is mandated to deliver projects and supplies on behalf of government. Among the Ministry of Tourism projects that CEDP is working on include UHTTI, Uganda Wildlife Research Training Institute (UWRTI) in Kasese and a national museum, among others.
“The UHTTI project is being handled by ROKO Construction Limited and it will be delivered by December. It was supposed to have been delivered 12 months after it was launched in 2018 but we have had a lot of issues on the contract,” Pande said.
The ground breaking of the Shs16 billion hotel took place on April 10, 2018, and was presided over by the then Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu. The project was supposed to be completed within 12 months.
However, five years down the road, the project has dragged on, something engineers have blamed on ROKO’s procrastination and limited financial muscle. “ROKO has had issues and has been a subject of discussion in Parliament. The government was supposed to come in and help but still the finances are not adequate,” Pande said.
ROKO’s construction delays had irked Tourism minister Col. (Rtd) Tom Butime who at one time had hinted on suspending the contract. “It is true ROKO’s contract had been suspended but verbally. There was no written document to that effect and it is the reason why ROKO continued with its works normally,” said UHTTI Estates manager Geoffrey Okello.
But a representative from Arch Design Limited, an engineering consultancy company that is supervising the mega project, faulted ROKO Construction Limited over what she called inadequate supply of materials. “The project was supposed to have been completed in 12 months but it has been dogged by inadequate supply of materials. I think ROKO was not prepared for a project of this magnitude,” the source that preferred anonymity said.
Her concerns were echoed by the site engineer, Isa Mbogo, who also said the delay has been caused by inadequate supply of building materials and the additional contract that ROKO was assigned. “We were initially meant to construct a two-floor hotel but the contract was revised to three-floor and this involved a lot of work, including clearing slabs,” Mbogo said.
He, however, said the construction works now stand at 70 per cent completion rate, with completion of initial works standing at 80 per cent while works for the additional floor now stand at 50 per cent. Mbogo, however, said they are fast-tracking the construction works and he is hopeful the building will be handed over to UHTTI in December.
In an interview with this reporter, Pande said the work that is remaining is not much and he expects ROKO Construction Limited to deliver the building by June. “They were supposed to have completed the construction in February but they asked for an extension until June which we offered them even after ascertaining that they did not need all that time to complete the works,” Pande said.
He said the work that is remaining is not much especially on the side of ROKO’s contract. “Remember ROKO is not delivering a hotel. They are delivering infrastructure. The furnishing, fittings and cutlery will be done by another service provider,” Pande said.
Since UHTTI is the only government institution which specializes in tourism and hospitality training, government deemed it prudent to transform the facility into a Centre of Excellency for hotel and tourism training.
The Shs16 billion 82-room hotel with ultramodern facilities is part of the first phase of the Ministry of Tourism master plan that seeks to develop a pool of skilled personnel along the Tourism value chain by fast-tracking implementation of the tourism curriculum as well as providing Education, Training and Research in the areas of Tourism and Hospitality.
The second phase of the project which is estimated to cost Shs14 billion involves the construction of a block that will house classrooms, a computer laboratory, library, language labs, front office, offices and sports and demonstration facilities, among others. The contract for this phase has already been awarded to Symbion Consultancy Firm and works are supposed to commence soon.
Ms Miriam Namutosi, the principal of UHTTI, in an earlier interview with this reporter said she is optimistic the contractor will do the best. “The second phase of the project will cost Shs14 billion and we hope the contractor will do the best in line with making UHTTI the Centre of Excellency for hotel and tourism training,” Ms Namutosi said.
The Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (UHTTI) started in mid 1980s after a feasibility study under the project UNDP/ILO/ UG/30. The institute was established at Fairway Hotel in Kampala in 1989 as a pilot school under ILO/ UNDP
When Fairway Hotel was repossessed by its original owners in 1991, ILO/UNDP pulled out of the project, leaving it entirely to the government of Uganda, who subsequently moved the institute to Crested Crane Hot