The Parliamentary Committee on Physical Infrastructure wants the government to release Sh440 billion for the second phase of upgrading and expansion of Entebbe International Airport.
The committee Chairperson David Karubanga says the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority-UCAA has completed close to 80 percent of the first phase of the project which ends December this year.
Karubanga told journalists on Friday after touring the airport, that the Finance Ministry needs to commit itself that it will release the funds so that the contractor can commence the second phase early next year.
The second phase involves installing lights for Runway 12/30, building a multi-storeyed car park, extension of the new passenger terminal building by an additional 10,000 square metres on the floor area, and expanding the runways 17/35 and 12/30 to accommodate big carriers with 290-370 seats namely Boeing 77-300 and the Airbus A340-600 among others.
The project is part of the 20- year National Aviation Master Plan ending in 2033, with the aim of enhancing the airport’s capacity to handle increasing passenger numbers and cargo volumes.
The current passenger terminal building has the capacity to handle 410 arriving and 320 departing passengers during peak hours on a daily basis and over one million travelers a year. But by 2033, the airport is projected to handle 6 million passengers and store 172,000 metric tons of cargo annually.
The project started in May 2016, with the first phase initially expected to be completed in May 2021 while the second phase is expected to be completed in 2024. The project will cost 1.2 Trillion Shillings.
Karubanga says UCAA’s latest report shows that the works in the first phase are at overall physical progress of 79 percent against planned progress of 98 percent expected in January 2022.
Construction works for the new passenger Terminal Building have however not yet started because the old cargo centre, near the current passenger terminal building, must be demolished to provide space for the new terminal building.
Karubanga says the committee will however demand answers for the delays in completing phase one of the project.
He however says some of the facilities worked on in the first phase will only be operational upon completion of the second phase. This includes activating Runway 12/30 at the old Entebbe airport/ VVIP terminal by installing lights and other equipment for aircraft to land at the night. Currently, the runway can only be used for emergency situations and is limited to only light and small aircraft (160-seater planes) that land during the daytime.
Karubanga asked UCAA to submit the project designs, contract, bid documents, interim payment certificates, and other documents related to the first phase.
Fred Bamwesigye the Director-General of UCAA, says the upgrade and expansion project will only make sense if both phases are implemented without a break due to lack of funding.
Eng. Ayub Sooma, the Director of Airports and Aviation Security at UCAA says the first phase of the upgrade and expansion project was delayed by one year, due to delayed payment for completed works and the negative impact of COVID-19.
He however says the seven months the airport was closed to passenger flights in 2020 was a blessing in disguise because the contractor completed works on the runways and their associated taxiways.