Thursday April 21 2011

Districts fail to use Shs47 billion as roads rot away

By James Eriku

As many roads throughout the country continue to become impassable due to poor maintenance, there are reports that many districts and urban councils are failing to utilise funds extended to them for roads.

Officials from the Uganda Road Fund (URF) under which the docket for the disbursement of funds for roads lie, said the districts failed to absorb more than Shs47b disbursed to them for road maintenance in the last quarter of 2010 alone, out of their budget of Shs116b.

The URF Executive Director, Eng. Michael Odongo, said he is worried that this financial year, the amount of money that districts would fail to absorb could tripple as only a few projects have been accomplished.

“It’s a serious problem to the Fund. Money sent for road maintenance are not being utilised yet almost all districts have stretches of impassable roads and roads that have been earmarked for opening,” Eng. Odongo said.

He said this during a meeting with chief administrative officers, district engineers and chief finance officers for districts in Acholi, Lango, Teso, West Nile, and Bukedi sub-regions in Gulu on Tuesday.

Support the old
He lashed out at old districts for not supporting newly-created ones with both manpower and machinery.
“We are appealing to the Local Government ministry to sort this mess out because when a district is created, getting the required manpower depends on them,” he said.

“If the new districts can’t recruit, let them share the technocrats until the new ones get their own.” He warned that the performance agreement that they signed with the districts could impact negatively on some of them as unutilised road funds would be withdrawn from districts and line officials be punished for jeopardising government programmes.

Oyam District became the first casualty last year when the Uganda Road Fund ordered it to reimburse millions of unutilised funds to the Treasury.

Uganda’s budget absorption rate, a measure of spent funds against those released by the government, was 99 per cent at the close of the past financial year, with Shs5.11 trillion used out of a total allocation of Shs5.17 trillion, according to the Government Annual Performance Report FY 2009/10.

Just a month before the end of the fiscal year in June, about Shs400b was lying unused in the government coffers.