Controversy on Uganda’s national backbone construction

Internet

The $106m national data transmission backbone has been hit by controversy, with the Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) and the information and communication technology (ICT) ministry accusing each other of sabotaging the project. The ICT ministry accuses the road authority of damaging the underground fibre optic cables.

The authority hit back by saying the ministry laid the cables too close to the surface. According to the parliamentary committee on ICT, the optic fibres to Jinja and Bombo have been cut off as a result of road repairs being done by the Ministry of Works. Conducting an on-spot assessment of the project, MPs discovered that several cables were damaged as a result of road works.

The committee also discovered that the cable at Namanve was destroyed by construction works done by the Uganda Investment Authority. Appearing before the committee yesterday, the road authority accused the ICT ministry of ignoring the guidelines given while laying the cables. The director, Peter Ssebanakitta, said some cables had been damaged because they were laid in the road reserves.

He also blamed the ministry for not following the specified one-metre depth and 10 to 15 metres away from the road reserve rule. "In our assessment, the decision to lay the cables in the road reserve was a mistake. They never thought of road expansion activities. When we discovered the mistake, we wrote to the ICT ministry, but they never took any action," Ssebanakitta said.

He also blamed the ministry for failure to supervise the contractors during the laying process. "The contractor was doing work without any supervision," Ssebanakitta said. The authority also accused the ICT ministry of not marking the areas where the cables were laid for easy identification.

The first phase of laying the fibre cables was completed last year. It included linking Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and Bombo. The committee is also investigating the disappearance of generators that were supposed to power the optic fibre cables.

The New Vision