Poor feasibility studies blamed for shoddy Imihigo projects

Quite often construction projects stall. Reports cite poor feasibility as the leading cause of stalled projects. Nadege Imbabazi.

Poor feasibility studies continue to affect the quality and sustainability of projects contained in the Imihigo contracts, an evaluation report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda has said.

Imihigo are performance contracts between citizens and their leaders where each district pledges to achieve specific development goals.

The concept was introduced in 2006 by Government as a home-grown solution to accelerate the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation process of government programmes, strategies, and commitments towards economic growth and poverty reduction.

Giving an example of Burera District, the report says that the construction of Butaro Hospital was halted when it was discovered that the building’s foundation could not support the structure. The foundation was then demolished and the builders started afresh in order to put in place a stronger concrete slab that could withstand humidity.

In Nyabihu District a poor feasibility study for a vegetable collection centre led to the construction of a substandard facility that could only cater for approximately 20% of the produce (mainly carrots). The washing bay was very small and even the small amount of vegetables that were cleaned could not be stored, which lead to unnecessary losses.

The Director General of the Directorate of Territorial Administration and Good Governance; Bob Gakire, told The New Times in a telephone interview that the issues raised in Imihigo evaluation reports are never ignored. Instead, he pointed out that meetings are convened between the ministry, the evaluators and various institutions involved to get to the bottom of the issues and how best to fix them.

“If, for instance, the issue is poor feasibility studies, we sit down with the leaders and dig deep into the issue. Was it an issue of contractors? Was the issue within the procurement process? Did, for instance, heavy rains factor in? We look at what and why and then how to fix the issues at hand,” he said.

Butaro hospital has been cited as one of the projects that were delayed because of poor feasibility studies. File.

Gakire pointed out that the issue of poor feasibility studies had improved over the years compared to the past where projects did not require studies.

“The situation has improved tremendously. Right now, districts cannot put up a structure without a study. That study must also be reviewed by the advisory committee bringing together the Ministries of Infrastructure, Economy and Local Government, among others before it is given the go ahead. No construction happens now without a feasibility study,” he said.

Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Phillip Mulindahabi; an engineer with A&M Engineers, pointed out the value of feasibility studies, especially with big projects.

“It all comes down to how big a project is. There is no way you will invest money in a construction project without first ensuring that it is technically feasible and economically justifiable. This is the best way to tell whether a project is worth the investment or not,” he said.

It is not the first time the issue of poor feasibility studies and construction projects causing government losses has come up.

In May this year, the Auditor General, Obadiah Biraro, said that 109 contracts worth Rfw206bn had been delayed or abandoned. He mentioned districts as part of the culprits with significant delays in building projects.