For some time now, there have been several reports on Dott Services Limited’s work quality, and its capacity to handle big projects.
RedPepper DIgital – joined by other media outlets, set out on a fact-finding tour of Dott Services’ roads.
The first stop was at Nakalama Trading Centre in Iganga, where the 100km-Nakalama-Tirinyi-Mbale Road Rehabilitation Project starts.
The works are ongoing at this section of the road after months of delay overcompensation of project affected persons
Officials from the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) are a few metres away from the Dott Services engineers busy on their work.
Unlike in other road projects where UNRA would hire a consultant supervisor, the authority is doing all the supervision work – the first time is opting for internal supervision for a major road project in years.
“This is a good thing because nobody can allege that we connived with UNRA’s supervisors,” says Eng Jamesone Olonya, the Contracts Manager at Dott Services.
He added: “We are happy to be supervised by our employer and we think the UNRA team is doing a very good job.”
Contrary to reports that Dott Services had denied UNRA supervisors access to its works, Olonya wonders why the company’s critics would stoop that low and peddle such cheap claims.
We later learn, from the locals, that supervisors have camped in the area since the project started to oversee its implementation.
After the Nakalama patch, most of the road has been rehabilitated.
Besides, ongoing works at a few lowlands and marshes, like at River Mpologoma and at Naigombwa, travellers are already enjoying smooth rides.
Eng Olonya puts the completion rate at almost 97 per cent, and hopes it will be ready for handover to the roads authority between August and September.
“You can’t rush the works on lowlands,” he says, further explaining that this would make the road prone to the rains. That means that Dott Services has to first wait for one layer to dry, then monitor the effect of season changes, before the final asphalt upgrade layer is done.
Funded by the Government of Uganda (GoU), the Shs135bn project was expected to be completed in May 2020. Olonya explains that besides engineers opting not to rush the works, especially at lowland areas, the Covid19 pandemic also affected the work schedule. “Works were suspended for two months,” he tells us.
The company also imports some of the materials and flying them in was a bit problematic due to air travel restrictions due to Covid19. For example, Dott Services buys bitumen from Kenya and gets the rails from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Other delays were caused by the slow progress in the shifting of water and electricity infrastructure in the areas affected by the works as required of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and Umeme, respectively.
But the major factor for the delay of projects – even when funding is ready – is the puzzle of compensation of Project-affected Persons (PAPs). Olonya says it can take years to resolve compensation issues. For example, for the upgrading of the 35km-Ishaka-Kagamba Road project, it took two years to compensate the PAPs. While UNRA awarded Dott Services the contract to upgrade the road from gravel to paved (bituminous) standard in 2012, the works didn’t start until 2014.
Unlike some roads constructed by other firms (a bulk of them foreign) which develop cracks and potholes even before their completion, the Nakalama-Tirinyi-Mbale Road is in good condition. Upon handover to UNRA in a few weeks, Dott Services will be expected to monitor and maintain the road for the following year.
But Olonya, who has worked in road construction industry for over two decades (with a huge chunk of his experience at Dott Services), assures us the road will last its lifespan of 15 years.
The Ishaka-Kagamba Road, completed in 2016, is testament to Dott Services quality of work. Four years after completion, the road is in good shape, and its impact is already being felt. It has significantly cut the amount of time one spends on the road, and reduced the number of accidents, that were particularly due to the sharp corners on the road that snakes through hills (including the one at Orutsindura and the other at kilometre 13) and valleys. At the hilly areas such as at Kilometre 13, engineers expertly put up gabions to tame landslides.
At the Kainamo corner, like at several other curves, engineers put chevrons and humps. Locals tell us the number of accidents has reduced at this former black spot.
It is the quality of roads like Nakalama-Tirinyi-Mbale, Ishaka-Kagamba and others before it that Olonya, also the Board Chairman of Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (UNABCEC), hinges on to dismiss the claims that Dott Services does shoddy work.
“I am aware that there’s a learning phase, growth, economies of scale and so on. However, as a matter of principle and organizational culture, Dott Services has had farsighted business interests, commitment and relentlessness,” he says.
Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Dott Services has delivered high quality work, largely in Uganda and Tanzania. Some of its Ugandan construction, rehabilitation and repair projects include the 2007 Chogm roads, Jinja-Kamuli Road, Muduuma-Mityana Road, Hoima-Kiziranfumbi-Kabaale Road, and Kafu-Masindi Road project. The construction firm has also received acclaim from the Tanzanian government for its numerous high quality projects. They include: Korogwe-Mkumbara-Same Road, Kawawa-Nduoni-Marangu Mtoni Road, Mkuu-Tarakea Road and Marangu-Kilacha -Rombo Road, among others.
Apart from road works, Dott Services is also involved in Hydropower and Dam Works with some of its previous projects including Nyagak III Hydro Power Project; bridge works such as Namulo Bridge in Tororo District, Enyau Bridge and Kasese Railway Line Bridge; building schools, health centres and markets; and solar energy works.
Dott Services’ quality of work, a result of 25 years of investment in human resource, sourcing of raw materials and equipment, has made it Uganda’s finest local road construction company, ranked under the Class A1 tier.
The firm owns quarries that supply it with raw materials, all of which are tested at its various project camp labs to ascertain their quality.
At the camps, such as the one in Tirinyi, are trucks and other machinery that work on different projects. For example, some 25 parked at Tirinyi camp were acquired as the firm celebrated 25 years of reliable infrastructure services.
In terms of human resource, Dott Services has managed to retain some of the most experienced engineers in the construction industry, including Olonya, the UNABCEC boss.
Others have gone on to run key departments at UNRA and the Ministry of Works and Transport, among other government entities.
The tour ended at Ishaka-Kagamba Road, I can’t help but wonder why some people have labelled Dott Services a ‘shoddy work’ firm.
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But Eng Olonya’s words ring in my mind, “the shoddy works assertions may be a preferential position of people who do not know Dott Services that well.” I was one of these people.