Cement in custody – early release unlikely

Cement in custody – early release unlikely
Published: 13 January 2005

Ugandan police have refused to release 150 bags of substandard Portland cement confiscated from Tororo Cement Factory last year.  The cement has been lying at Wandegeya Police Station pending an end to clashes between the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers (UIPE) over the scam. 

"There are issues that are still before the engineers and UNBS but the cement is still at Wandegeya. We haven’t released it," Oboo told The Monitor by telephone.  UIPE and UNBS are engaged in a quiet bitter war over the cement.  While UNBS has been pressurizing police to release the cement for destruction, UIPE is opposed to the proposal, asking why the standards bureau is interested in destroying an exhibit. UIPE has also questioned the conduct of UNBS in the scam. 

UNBS Executive Director, Dr. Terry Kahuma wrote to the OC CID, Wandegeya on December 3 and instructed that the cement be destroyed in the presence of the National Environment Management Authority and Kampala City Council.  However, UIPE President, Eng. Livingstone Bangi in a December 15 letter questioned the motive of UNBS when the institution does not have the capacity to execute the destruction. 

"These 150 bags that you have proposed to destroy extensively to prevent them from going back on the market, is part of at least the batch of 4000 bags already distributed to other customers," he said.  "Your planned action does not tell the public how you intend to handle the other 3,800 bags already incorporated in some structures or still in their stores! How sure are you now that there might have been other substandard batches that escaped your watchful eye," Eng. Bangi wrote to Dr Kahuma. 

Tororo Cement Marketing and exports Manager Mr Alok Kala had earlier written to the police asking for the release of the cement.  The cement was impounded from a construction site in Nakasero, Kampala last year.  Conclusive tests by UNBS confirmed the cement was substandard. The cement also failed a test carried out by the UIPE. In a war of words, UIPE has accused Tororo Cement of peddling lies after the scam and failing to own up to their mistake.