The Executive Director of Uganda Road Fund (URF), Mr Michael Odongo, has appealed to government to amend the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) law so that money charged on road users is deposited directly onto the road fund account in Bank of Uganda (BoU) instead of the Consolidated Fund.
Speaking to local government leaders from western region at Mbarara District Council Hall on Monday at the 10-year celebrations of URF, Mr Odongo said they have engaged Parliament, ministry of Finance and Cabinet to amend Section 14 of the URA law in vain.
Section 14 says all collections by URA are directed to the consolidated fund, which contradicts the URF law. It says collected road user charges must be put into a road fund account in the BoU.
URF was launched in 2008 to finance the maintenance of roads following reforms made in the roads sector.
Ministry of Works was supposed to concentrate on policy, standards and regulation; Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) created by Unra Act 2006, was mandated to develop and maintain national roads (now within 21,000 kms), while local governments were assigned district, urban and community access roads.
Mr Odongo said while road users pay tax every day, the fund does not get money for maintenance of the roads. URF relies on the money only allocated by Ministry of Finance and Parliament.
“The law that brought us (URF) in place recognises that the owner of the road must have interest in the road by paying for its maintenance,” Mr Odong said.
“The owners of the road are the road users. The sources of revenue were very clear under the law, each time you put a litre of fuel in the car at a petrol station, road fund, is supposed to have a small percentage going to its account, I’m clapping because I know you have paid,” Mr Odongo said.
He added: “We have transit vehicles coming from Rwanda, Kenya, DR Congo through our roads here; they pay at the border. When I see a foreign number plate here, I know money has entered on road fund account, when I see those police officers collecting fines on the road, that’s our money...we are supposed to use the money for maintenance of the roads.”
He said when he became the executive director in 2009, he opened URF account in BoU but URA has failed to deposit their money on to the road fund.
“Section 14 of the URA law has proved to be a headache. It cannot be removed. The law contradicts with the URF law. These provisions of the law are conflicting and Parliament must harmonise them,” Mr Odongo said.
He said NRM has been winning elections mainly because of improved road network and, therefore, government should remain focused.
“Why should road fund money go directly to BoU and not through Consolidated Fund and why shouldn’t it be accessible to us all the time? It’s because we need to maintain roads all the time. The problem of roads in Uganda and in East Africa and the world is not construction, its maintenance; that’s an established fact,” Mr Odongo said.
The Member of Parliament for Rwampara County, Mr Charles Ngabirano, said money for URF is supposed to be a percentage of the transport levy as stipulated by the law.
“They need assistance so that the money is fixed like we are doing with Energy Fund money, it is goes directly to the Energy Fund account, and it’s not subjected to deductions; that’s why you are seeing many power dams being constructed,” Mr Ngabirano said.
The chief administrative office of Mbarara District, Mr Kweyamba Ruhemba said URF has spent Shs400 billion on the maintenance of roads in western region in last 10 years.