YUMBE. Leaders in Yumbe district have identified theft of materials at river Kochi design and build bridge project as one of the factors affecting the progress of the works.

Works on river Kochi bridge commenced in June, 2020, the project duration was 12 months which elapsed on June 17th but due the anomalies like the Covid-19 lockdown and loss of materials, the cottactor wants the project duration extended for the second time.

The project was contracted to Spider Contractors Ltd at a cost of Shs 3.4billion with funding from Development Response for Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP).

The major work remaining on the bridge is working on the deck but without the missing nuts, the concrete canot be cast. Meanwhile work on the environment component of planting trees is ongoing.

But during a site meeting last week, Mr Bernard Ayimani, the Yumbe district Engineer and also the project manager said the recent challenge they encountered was that some of the nuts that were used to tie the plates and the steel girders were removed from the bolts on October, 17th.

He said they recently suspended the works on the bridge after some of the workers tested positive to Covid-19 and theft of materials which will consume another time that will affect the schedule of the project.

"It's going to be a serious setback on the side of the progress of the works because the nuts are not sourced locally within Uganda but they are sourced from the United Arab Emirates in Dubai. This is a disruption of the works because the contractor is yet to give orders to replace the lost nuts from Dubai which will take time", he said.

"This is a sign of sabotage on the works. If we are interested in achieving the completion of the project, why should such things happen? More competent security personnel were brought here to take care of the materials at the site, but we continue to register losses and theft cases of materials at the site which compromises quality", Ayimani lamented.

He cautioned the contractor to be vigilant and ensure that the materials supplied at the site are taken good care of. About 92 nuts were stolen.

Mr Muzamil Draku, the Chairperson Project Management Committee said it's very hard for them to get the people who are engaged in stealing the materials at the site.

"We don't understand some of the happenings here at the site because bolts that have been tightened can't be removed using the hand without spanners. I have tried to do some investigations in the community about the theft of the materials but there was no clue but I suspect that the workers might be behind this theft", he said.

He said there is a loophole on the side of the contractor because the workers are more knowledgeable about the importance of such materials than the community and that they are getting fed up of the continuous cases of theft registered at the site.

Mr Ratibu Juma, the councillor representing Kuru sub county expressed dissatisfaction over the way the nuts were removed and yet it's the UPDFs guarding the site at night hours.

"We were born here and we know the character and behaviour of our local community. In our society when a security personnel, well armed, is placed in a certain locality, during night hours, no one will step in that place, so I wondered how the thieves manoeuvred their way to remove the nuts", he said.

Leaders at the meeting demanded to know whether it's the community or the workers at the site who are behind the theft of the materials but they were left in suspense as no concrete response was given in connection to the matter.

Mr Nicholas Jemba, the managing director of Spider Contractors Ltd said, the overall physical progress of the works is 85 per cent but said they lost time during the Nation-wide lockdown in June and July causing delays in the works.

He confirmed the loss of the nuts saying they will be replaced but was not clear when the nuts will arrive.

"We have given an order for new nuts in Dubai but I can't tell you exactly when these nuts will arrive so we are planning for the extension of the project duration as we wait for the nuts to resume the works", he said.

"I know people want to get details of how the nuts got lost but we can't discuss it here because we have already handled the matter in a security meeting. Whoever is interested in that should wait for the security meeting", Jemba added.