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Rusumo power project delayed by two years

October 12, 2021

Completion of the 80 megawatt Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project has been extended by two years to 2023 following procurement flaws that increased its cost by over 20 per cent, according to the latest audit.

A joint venture by Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi, the Rusumo project was started in February 2012 to supply electricity to the three countries by December 2021. But now the governments are seeking extra grant period citing pandemic induced delays.

The three governments received $468 million worth of grants and loans from multiple development partners, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank, to finance the project and linked transmission lines to generate and transmit electricity. Each country is expecting 26MW to be added directly to its national grid.

However, an audit carried out by the countries’ auditor general’s offices cautions that the estimates on project delivery are unrealistic, and uncertainties over completion time and deficiencies in feasibility studies could see the initial cost of the project continue to rise.

“We have seen a jump of about 22 per cent between the earlier planned cost of the project to date and the actual cost. We were not convinced that those adjustments were sufficiently justified. We did not also see the three governments coming in close to monitor those activities and adjustments,” said Rwanda’s auditor general Obadiah Biraro who chairs the joint audit commission.

Financial caution

Auditors cautioned that the available financial resources, which are believed to be adequate at the moment, could be eroded due to the cost of overruns associated with delayed completion of the activities in the overall project.

Tanzania’s controller and auditor general Charles Kicheere told The EastAfrican that a lot more was at stake as the project continued beyond the initial completion deadline of February 2021 later extended to December 2021, and further into 2022.

“The project is currently at 81 percent. By now it could be higher than the 22 per cent currently at stake,” said Mr Kicheere. He called for constant follow up of the project by the respective country’s parliaments.

The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (Nelsap), which spearheads the project implementation is said to have sought deadlines extension to February and September 2022 for the first phase that consists of a powerhouse construction, and the second one of power substations respectively.

The two components are part of the $340-million power generation part of the project funded by the World Bank. Over 57 percent of the committed funds have been absorbed to date

The delays will consequently have a bearing on activities under the$128 million AfDB-funded next phase of building transmission lines to connect the three countries to the substations.

Burundi needs a 161km-long transmission line to connect its Gitega centre to the power plant at the common border of Rwanda and Tanzania. Works on the 98km and 119km-long respective transmission lines are under way in the latter cases.

Head of Nelsap Co-ordination Unit Andy Maro Tola, told The EastAfrican that the delays and increased project costs are supported by documents.

Respective governments expect the project to help plug power supply deficits. Rwanda specifically banks on the project to help reach its 100 per cent electrification target by 2024.

“There have been delays and associated costs we can account for, and for which we obtained board approvals. However, based on the needed analysis and work schedules we anticipate to complete the project by September 2022,” he said in reaction to the audit findings.

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Fact BOX

The first power is planned for December 2021.

The joint development was entered by the three governments through a Tripartite Agreement signed on February 16, 2012.

It is being developed under the NELSAP umbrella for Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania funded by the World Bank. Rusumo falls Hydropower Project is planned to generate 80 MW and the power output will be shared equally by three countries.

AfDB is providing $128 million for the 372 Km of 220Kv transmission lines.

The project consists of a concrete dam with crest length of 150m, Headrace Tunnel of 460m and a surface power station with 3*30MW Kaplan turbines.

The project will produce, renewable, clean, relatively low-cost power to the national grids of Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, shared equally, with each country receiving an additional 26.6 Megawatts.

The Rusumo project is located at the Border Rwanda-Tanzania at Rusumo falls (Kirehe District, Eastern Province ).

theeastafrican