Rwanda could sever links with convention centre contractor

Saturday March 28 2015

The Kigali Convention Centre under construction. Rwanda has contracted a Swiss firm to audit the work that has been done to pave the way for fresh bids. PHOTO | FILE

Rwanda could tender afresh a contractor for its multimillion dollar Kigali Convention Centre, whose completion has been delayed by alleged mismanagement and procurement flaws.

The EastAfrican has learnt that the government plans to terminate the contract of the Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG), which was constructing the $300 million centre.

The conference centre comprises a five-star hotel with 292 rooms, an information technology office park and a conference hall with the capacity to host 2,600 people, among other facilities.

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A shortfall in financing

The project was set for completion by 2011, but was initially delayed by a shortfall in financing. Part of the $400 million borrowed from the international market in 2013 was to go towards completion of the project by the end of 2014, but substantive issues have emerged that may further delay the construction.


“We have hit a snag. We have money but there are issues we have to iron out. The two teams are discussing the way forward — if we separate we will make it official,” Claver Gatete, Rwanda’s Finance Minister, said without divulging details about the stalemate that has halted construction works.

Mr Gatete sought to assure investors in the project that the government would meet its debt obligations despite the delay.

“We still have room to borrow and we can also pay from the central Treasury,” Mr Gatete said, pointing out that the country’s current debt to GDP ratio is still low at 24 per cent while the IMF advised ceiling is 50 per cent.

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The Kigali Convention Centre is a strategic investment that is expected to boost Rwanda’s position as a conference destination. The government has projected earnings $150 million this year from meetings, incentives, conferences and events, up from $42 million collected last year.

But The EastAfrican has learnt that Axiome Swiss International, an engineering company, is auditing the project, after which the government will determine the way forward.

Quality of work

A key concern for the government is the delay in completing the construction of the centre that should have hosted the African Development Bank annual meetings in May last year. There are also concerns about the quality of the work done by the Chinese firm.

Axiome Swiss International has also been tasked to draft tendering procedures in order to attract bids for potential companies to replace BCEG. Axiome projects that the audit will be complete by June and the bids will start coming in by the end of August.

“We have been put in charge, as well as doing the audit work for, among other things, the quality of the construction material that was used for this project,” a source from Axiome Swiss International said on condition of anonymity.

According to the engineer, from the audit carried out so far, works on the water pipes and metal bars have been found to be substandard.

“Water pipes are damaged to the extent of not being usable but the contractors had gone ahead to use them and concealed the damage with polythene bags,” he said.

All the construction materials were being imported from China by sea.

Report by Alex Ngarambe and Berna Namata