ACTIONAID UGANDA CONSTRUCTION COMMITTEE REPORT TO CENTRAL MANAGEMENT TEAM
The problem of the poor quality of the Infrastructure ActionAid Uganda (AAU) has been putting up has been a matter of concern for quite some time. In 2001, some of the Development Initiatives (DIs) like Bundibugyo and Mubende raised it as a problem and requested for additional budgetary resources to allow them to complete some of the projects which had remained uncompleted. In Katakwi, the press had raised voices condemning the poor quality of latrines which had been put up. Audit reports had from time to time pointed at the problem and the need to have it dealt with.
In a CMT meeting which sat at Muyenga Club in August, 2001, this problem was once again discussed and it was found that it had several facets which needed closer investigation. A committee of five people was therefore set up to investigate it and make recommendations to CMT. The committee was allowed to incorporate one or two other persons. Members of the committee were:
1. John Bulega - RF, Southern Region
2. Cranmer Katalihwa - Programme Officer, Pallisa DI
3. Rose Amulen - Programme Officer, Katakwi DI
4. David Abwang - Programme Officer, Apac DI
5. Deo Lukomwa - Team Leader, Mubende DI
6. Fred Kintu - Programme Officer, Southern Region
7. Ednance Kiiza - Programme Officer, Masindi DI
Rose Atim (Team Leader, Nebbi DI) and John Mbusa (Team Leader, Bundibugyo DI) were ed but were unable to participate because of the heavy commitments they had.
2.0 TERMS OF REFERENCE
Once in place, the committee made extensive consultations and held various formal and informal discussions with various AAU staff. It was found that Infrastructure projects which AAU had assisted communities to construct could be put in the following categories:
(i) School structures (Classrooms, Teachers’ Houses and Latrines for Teachers’ Houses, School latrines, School Office Units)
(ii) Health Facilities (Health Units, Dispensaries, Aid Posts, Medical staff Houses, etc.)
(iii) Water sources (Protected Springs, Valley Dams, Bore Holes, Shallow wells, Water Tanks, etc.)
(iv) Community Stores, Community Halls
(v) Roads, Light Bridges
It was also found that distinction needed to be made between:
(a) Poor quality of infrastructure resulting from poor workmanship or the infrastructure being in a dangerous state threatening the safety of the users as opposed to poor quality attributed to the “incompleteness” of the structure.
(b) Poor quality of infrastructure attributed to poor work-manship as opposed to poor quality of infrastructure attributed to poor standard building materials being used.
The task as given by CMT was therefore discussed and refined by the committee and formed into the following Terms of Reference:
Overall: To analyse the problem of poor quality of infrastructure projects in AAU and make recommendations to CMT.
Specific Terms of Reference:
(i) Identify and Define the different forms of “Poor Quality” of infrastructure projects in AAU.
(ii) Establish causes of the problem and draw lessons from them
(iii) Ascertain the current status and magnitude of the problem if AAU was to rectify the problem.
(iv) Make recommendations to CMT on how to move forward.
3.0 THE PROCESS
Initially the committee held a series of meetings to discuss the method of work and to draw up the detailed Terms of Reference for the Task the members had been given. Their initial activities involved holding discussions with the Senior Internal Auditor on what exactly was being meant by “Poor quality of infrastructure projects”. The Senior Internal Auditor also provided copies of the relevant audit reports to the committee to make the work of following up on some of the projects he had included in his reports, easier. Copies of the minutes of the meetings are appended to this report for clarification.
The Committee divided itself up into three sub-teams to physically visit each of the following DIs : Mubende, Bundibugyo, Apac, Masindi, Katakwi, Pallisa, Kapchorwa and Kalangala. It was not possible to visit Kitgum because of logistical problems and the expenses this would have involved. (A schedule of the DIs visited against the dates when they were visited and the Sub-teams which visited them has been shown as appendix 1).
The issues raised by the Senior Internal Auditor formed the starting point of the investigations. During the visits to the DIs, members of the committee did the following:
(i) Visited a sample of the Infrastructure Projects starting with, where possible, those mentioned in the Internal Auditor’s Audit reports.
(ii) Met the Team Leader of each of the DIs they visited and her/his staff to discuss the issues surrounding poor quality of infrastructure projects both at the start of the visit (to discuss the Terms of Reference) and at the end of the visit (to discuss what they had found on the ground and get any possible explanations as to what had been found).
(iii) Were accompanied by a Technical builder (normally a District Engineer or Local Technician) to guide them in forming technical opinions on the work being looked at.
(iv) Visited infrastructure projects of other players in the DI and where possible talked to immediate members of the community for purposes of making comparisons and understanding the issues better.
(v) Talked to the local community members (they may have been able to find), opinion leaders, and more importantly the masons and builders who had constructed these infrastructures and the Relevant District or Government Officials (to sound off them what their opinion was)
Since AAU has moved away from activities of infrastructure construction, the visits were made much less emphatic on picking up lessons and were made to focus more on the problems of poor quality and how AAU in her present situation needed to address it.
For each DI visited, the visiting team has produced a brief report indicating their findings at that DI and it is the various reports produced by each sub team which have been used by Fred K., Deo L. and John B. to produce this final report.
(Reports made on each DI visit available on request).
4.1 Occurrence of Poor Quality infrastructure projects:
(i) The problems of incomplete infrastructure projects and of their poor quality were more pronounced or more prevalent in the older DIs (ABP, BAP, APA and MAP) than they were in the newer DIs (KAP, APP, AKP, Kalangala and Kitgum)
(ii) In the older DIs (ABP, BAP, APA and MAP), the problem took various forms:
(a) Incomplete structures ( but with no budgets)
There are structures (normally school construction) which have been put up but have not been floored, with no verandahs, no window or door shutters, no black-boards, etc. The situation varies from structure to structure and from DI to DI but the general feature is one of incompleteness. What is alarming in the case of the older DIs is that there were no budget resources earmarked for this type of completion. The issue also transforms into one of lack of initially agreed standard of completion.
(b) Poor work-manship (or poor quality per se)
The appearance of most of the structures was unpleasant. Generally, all the jobs done were quite shoddy. There is outstandingly an image of poor workmanship written all over most of the jobs done. This category includes poorly roofed buildings slanting at wrong angles, cracked walls and floors, rough uneven wall structures, un even floors, poorly done window frames and shutters fixed at wrong angles, etc. However, the facilities in this category are being used and are fully in the hands of the community owners. There is very little or nothing AAU can do to rectify this problem.
(c) Dangerous structures (Condemned)
There are cases where the structures are in a dangerous state and are capable of causing a catastrophe. Such structures are an outright condemnation and either need to be rebuilt or completely demolished. The team which visited Mubende DI for example visited a school whose pit latrine had been put up with the assistance of ActionAid but the slab of the latrine was resting on wooden logs (with no iron bars). Such a latrine could collapse anytime. The school authorities were asked to stop using the latrine but no alternative was being offered.
There are also cases of dangerously cracked buildings where walls could curve in if subjected to any slight pressure or where no ring beams were constructed and the building is very weak, etc.
(d) Declining quality over time due to continuous use.
There are cases where the structures were more or less completed but because they were constructed with poor workmanship, wear and tear on the building has been very fast and has ended up accelerating the rate at which they are wearing away. Sometimes this has been made worse by continuous use by the community for example cases of where school children have been made to start using classrooms before they are properly completed.
(iii) In the Newer DIs, the problems were generally less grave and where they existed they took a much lighter form.
In the newer DIs there were cases of un completed structures just like there had been in the older DIs. There were also cases (although very few) of poor work-manship. The really dangerous structures due for condemnation were almost non-existent. (Not many were brought to our attention but they could be there)
Most noticeable also was the fact that, where the structures were incomplete, the DIs had budgets in place for their completion.
(iv) Problems were greatest in schools:
School structures had more problems of poor quality and incompleteness than had Health units, Community Stores, Water sources, (other forms of infrastructure). It was found that this was mainly because The Local District Governments were always directly involved in the construction of Health units and the Government always provided a standard plan to be followed in the construction. This was not so in the case of all the school structures.
(v) Water sources and roads were almost always complete:
The problems with Water sources and Roads were more in the form of “Poor Public maintenance” though almost always, AAU had properly completed the work.
(vi) Over time, there was a recognisable improvement in the quality of the structures put up:
From around 1998, the structures constructed were of relatively better quality than those which had been constructed before and there was greater involvement of Local District Governments in the work than before (this was so even in the older DIs)
(vii) The work of the other players was almost always of a much better quality than that of AAU.
This was so in KAP, APP, MAP, etc. A unique case was that of Bundibugyo where the work of other players was of quality almost as poor as that of AAU.
4.2 Reasons why the quality of work is poor: (Causes)
The causes of poor quality of infrastructure projects were generally the same between the new and the older DIs. The dominance of any one specific cause varied between different DIs. Below are some of the identified causes:
(i) AAU Methodology:
This is the major factor upon which most of the problems are attributed.
(a) Community Contribution:
The contribution of the community was not always guided or specified. For example, if Parents were being asked to produce bricks before AAU could start the work of constructing say a classroom, then the parents could end up producing bricks of varying sizes and quality - most often being of a very inferior quality (each parent would almost always opt to bring the Cheapest available type).
The community could sometimes contribute what was “Locally available” whichever the quality. For example, parents if asked to produce sand or timber, could end up producing those varieties which were locally available to them even if the qualities were inferior. Lake sand is the proper type of sand suited to the construction of cement floors because it has larger stone granules. This type of sand (Lake Sand) is quite often not available in most communities. As a consequence, most of the Communities ended up producing river sand which is often clayey and without large enough stone granules.
The Communities also used to be overburdened with contributions towards various forms of infrastructure in the same community at the same time compelling them to contribute inferior quality materials (since the community was already financially over-stretched). This also affected the supervision and the spread of the little technical expertise (in say brick-laying and other forms of construction) which was available in that community.
(b) Absence of Technical expertise among AAU staff themselves:
AAU Field staff were the people to guide the community, to lead the monitoring process of the activities, to be the final verifiers of the work done before payment could be made. Yet, owing to the integrated approach, these staff were not builders but all round Development workers. They had no technical expertise whatsoever in construction This could have been the most important single factor explaining the poor quality of much of the infrastructure AAU assisted communities to put up.
(c) Budgetary limitations:
The amount of money set aside for the work was always very small. For want of putting up more classrooms out of a certain fixed monetory figure, for example, AAU staff used to find themselves in a situation where the amount of money being budgeted for any one structure would simply be too small. As communities assumed the responsibilities of managing the process through Parish Development Committees the situation got worse. The practice of getting three quotations before selecting a supplier used to lead to selecting the cheapest supplier yet the cheaper Masons who ended up being engaged were always the second best in a community which had very few such skills anyway.
Communities also sometimes misled AAU. There were occasions when a community opted for acquiring several roofs, say classrooms, even if the rest of the structures were going to remain uncompleted.
(d) Inadequate community supervision by both AAU staff and the Community itself.
Pilferage of building materials or wrong mixtures of quantities were all possible if the builders were not being properly supervised. AAU staff could take very long before visiting on-going construction work. Some community structures like the LCs or the school Management Committees or PTAs sometimes were also not very active. All of which caused a gap for poor work to be done.
(e) Over respecting community priorities.
(f) Failure to clearly define “Completion” right from the outset.
In some situation, completion was being defined as “ 4 walls with a roof” which currently is being seen as being incomplete.
(ii) Use of unqualified Labour
That which was available in the area
Affordable labour charges (Communities used to pay for the Labour)
Lack of knowledge of better skilled contractors
RPTs ie. Communities used to engage relatives or contractors from the same village or parish even if they were of inferior quality.
(iii) Lack of architectural plans
(iv) Actual diversion of materials
(v) Inadequate complimentary technical supervision by the other players eg. The LCs, Chiefs, Government Departmental Officials, etc.
The new DIs had a relatively better structures than the older DIs probably because of the following reasons:
(e) Standard Ground plans were being used in construction.
(f) Local District Government authorities had been more involved
(g) Standards of completion had been agreed with the community. There was therefore a clear level of completion being aimed at.
(i) DI Team Leaders should be asked to identify and work out the cost of the structures which are a health hazard and work with (or ask) the relevant authorities to take appropriate action of for example:
(a) Demolishing the structure to avoid a public catastrophe
(b) Re-constructing the structure by putting up a new one or repairing the old one.
(ii) Individual DIs should work out the actual number / quantity of the unfinished structures, cost it and lobby local District authorities to complete this unfinished work especially on schools and to ask the relevant authorities to maintain them.
(iii) Any future undertakings in infrastructure development should be pursued to proper completion using competent contractors.
(i) Field visit schedules by committee sub-teams
(ii) List of incomplete and / or un finished infrastructure projects in each DI
(iii) Photographs taken (for illustrating cases)
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