Districts, road contractors decry high murram prices

Monday December 10 2018

Work. An excavator clears a new road section in

Work. An excavator clears a new road section in Zirobwe Sub-county, Luweero District recently. PHOTO BY DAN WANDERA 

By Dan Wandera

LUWEERO/NAKASEKE. Several road construction and maintenance programmes in Luweero and Nakaseke districts have stalled due to hiked murram prices, the Luweero District LC5 chairperson, Mr Ronald Ndaula, has revealed.
For Luweero, a district with 416km road network coverage, contractors have to negotiate with land owners where the murram can be excavated.
Mr Ndaula said this has caused delays in execution of road maintenance projects.
“All the ball pits gazetted for murram excavation in Luweero are now depleted. The Shs900m road sector budget allocation for the financial year 2018/2019 did not cater for murram and gravel,” he said.
“The land owners have taken advantage of the different construction programmes by both government and private sector to hike the prices for the murram. We have to pay between Shs10m and Shs50m depending on the size of land. This money was never budgeted for under the road sector funds from central government,” Mr Ndaula told the Daily Monitor in an interview last Friday.
He said land as a factor of production is the reason for the new trend where there are no patriotic citizens volunteering land for murram excavation.
“Luweero District is stuck with about 17 road sections which need grading with murram for a better road life. This is the right time for government to consider the use of tarmac to counter the new challenges. None graded roads get washed away easily by heavy rains. This partly explains why we are forced to have routine maintenance for the roads more than twice a year,” he said.
Mr Ndaula identified the roads in bad shape as Namawoja–Kalagala, Luteete-Kalagala, Kyegombwa-Kikube, Lumonde-Lutuula–Watuba. The roads cover about 350kms.
Mr Ndaula said the cost of work on each road costs between Shs1.5m and Shs2m.
Mr Ivan Sserwambala, the Nakaseke District roads engineer, said there is hardly any free murram.
“We cannot work on all the planned roads if the murram which lengthens the life span of the roads is costly. The landscape in many areas has a poor soil formation that makes the soils slippery. You need to apply a layer of murram as you grade the road. Road sections which go through the wetlands and swampy areas take more murram,” Mr Sserwambala said.
In Nakaseke District, a landlord recently threatened to drag the district to court for excavating murram from his land without payment.
Mr Ignatius Kiwanuka Koomu, the district LC5 chairperson, said the landlord confiscated the roads equipment.
“Through negotiations, we paid Shs5m before our road grading machine was released. We had not budgeted for this money but we had the obligation to save the road equipment and avoid the long legal process,” he told Daily Monitor.
Mr Enock Ssekiziyivu, a director at Plamptan General Contractors, claims that his company currently budgets for the murram as part of the roadworks expenses while negotiating for the different bids.
“We pay between Shs5,000 and Shs8,000 per tipper truck of murram at the loading site. This excludes the long distances the trucks move to access the murram,” Mr Ssekiziyivu said.