MPs question Rukarara Project lease

Lawmakers yesterday expressed discontent over the manner in which the lease of Rukarara Micro-Hydro Power project to a local firm, Digitech Solutions, was carried out.  The lawmakers emphasised that while they were not against the lease, they were concerned with the process.  The House gave a nod to a motion by MP Juliana Kantengwa, to put aside items on the day’s order paper and focus on the seemingly ‘alarming’ and urgent matter – the lease of Rukarara micro hydro power project.
R-L: Juliana  Kantengwa; Juvenal Nkusi;Denis Polisi.
R-L: Juliana Kantengwa; Juvenal Nkusi;Denis Polisi.

Lawmakers yesterday expressed discontent over the manner in which the lease of Rukarara Micro-Hydro Power project to a local firm, Digitech Solutions, was carried out.

The lawmakers emphasised that while they were not against the lease, they were concerned with the process.

The House gave a nod to a motion by MP Juliana Kantengwa, to put aside items on the day’s order paper and focus on the seemingly ‘alarming’ and urgent matter – the lease of Rukarara micro hydro power project.

MPs agreed that the project had changed hands several times in the recent past, under unclear circumstances, and it was the House’s responsibility to get to the depth of the matter.

Another burning issue was that instead of the initially promised 9 MW the project was supposed to contribute to the national grid, MPs say it is likely to produce less.

Kantengwa told the House that she became concerned after reading the story, in The New Times, last Friday, that the government had leased the micro power project as part of the government’s plan to involve the private sector in energy generation.

After a long debate, the House adopted the motion and resolved that the minister in charge of energy be summoned on November 1, to expound on matters related to the project.

Lawmakers also resolved that a separate but concurrent inquiry be conducted to get to the root of the matter.

The plant was under the management of Beijing Forever Technology Development Co. Ltd till July 2009 and was later handed to a Canadian firm AECOM (formerly RSW International) from December 2009.

Kantengwa told Parliament that even earlier; she had read reports that the government had sunk over US$ 23 million into the project which was supposed to produce 9.5 MW to the national grid.

Lawmakers raised concerns over reports that the project is set to produce a meager 5 MW.

MPs observed that the plant had often changed hands and are concerned about its health, especially given the money government had put in every time it was acquired by a different investor.

Gideon Kayinamura stressed that he supports the government’s privatization programme adding that government must have had good intentions to privatise the plant.

He however noted that there was need to properly examine the local firm Digitech Solutions, and whether proper due diligence was made, so that it does not turn into another Rwandatel scenario, or into the Dane Associates saga over the methane gas exploitation, in the past.

Dane Associates was the first company contracted to extract methane gas from Lake Kivu but never delivered.

Juvenal Nkusi noted that the local firm, Digitech Solutions, is involved in many other projects – including solar and geothermal – though there is really nothing known about its accomplishments to guarantee it would manage the project.

According to Dr. Ezechias Rwabuhihi, the questions raised about the project and others should be deeply scrutinised.

Denis Polisi noted that the House does not know whether proper privatisation procedures were duly followed.

Noting Cimerwa as a recent example, Polisi observed that there are many cases of other projects that were defectively privatized and later relapsed, but noted that the House should quickly gather more information on the matter before the minister is summoned.

“Let this be the first step, because there are many other things that we see that are not moving on well in this area of energy. Let’s not mix things up but let us also embark on a programme of following up even on other things,” Polisi said.

Rukarara micro hydro power project is located in Nyamagabe District, Southern Province.

Ends

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