UNRA probe: Shs4 trillion stolen, report reveals

KAMPALA- President Museveni has directed the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the director of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department (CIID) to immediately start “hunting down” whoever is implicated in the misappropriation of at least Shs4 trillion for road works, a revelation contained in the final report of the Uganda National Roads Authority commission of inquiry.

President Museveni, who described the suspects as “rats”, said the report will “make things easy to follow up.”

He made the remarks on Wednesday evening at State House, Entebbe, while receiving the report from the commission chairperson Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.

“I did not know that educated people lack integrity,” President Museveni said, according to sources who attended the meeting. “ I am now happy that the IGG and CIID are now going to crash this corruption.”

The 1,300-page report has recommended criminal sanctions against at least 90 people as well as recovery of assets.
He added: “I thought after [Idi] Amin, Ugandans should be in position to run their country. But this lack of integrity clearly was linked to absence of supervision; now execution agencies should go ahead.”

The meeting was also attended by Works and Transport minister John Byabagambi, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) executive director Allen Kagina, UNRA board chairperson Angella Kiryabwire, Auditor General John Muwanga, CIID director Grace Akullo, IGG Irene Mulyagonja and other members of the commission.

Justice Bamugemereire, while presenting the report, specifically underlined “ the high cost of construction of roads” in the country which she said when benchmarked with countries in the region is exorbitant.

“We found that Uganda was comparatively more expensive. The unit cost of asphalt concrete in Uganda is 19 per cent higher than the unit cost in Rwanda and 52 per cent higher than the corresponding cost in Ethiopia,” she said.

“The cost of base course of crushed stone or natural gravel in Uganda is 6 per cent higher than the cost in Rwanda and 130 per cent higher than the corresponding cost in Ethiopia,” she added.

The cost of sub-base in Uganda, she noted further, is 221 per cent higher than the corresponding cost in Rwanda while for subgrade layers out of selected material, the cost in Uganda is 69 per cent higher than the cost in Rwanda and 125 per cent higher than the corresponding cost in Ethiopia.

“We recommend that UNRA puts measurers in place to match, within reason, the cost of construction of sister countries by eliminating the fat built in and front loaded in the Bills of Quantities in Uganda,” she said.

According to the report, “the net impact of this subculture of ‘wheeling and dealing’ on national roads body has been “significant.” For example, in the last seven years UNRA (before it was restructured] received a total of Shs9 trillion. The money was used to construct only 1,500km of roads in the same period yet was enough to construct at least 5,147km of roads.

Of the Shs9 trillion, at least Shs4 trillion was “misappropriated” in dubious deals notably through collusion between UNRA staff and contractors; flaws in the procurement system; procurement and payment of contracts in foreign currencies, causing pressure on the local currency; premature failure of roads; high construction costs, and delayed implementation of recommendations by the Auditor General in his annual reports.

The high unit costs of road construction by the old UNRA, the report, says almost double the rates in other comparable markets.

“It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that both statistically and technically the government and people of Uganda did not get value for money; or that they have been defrauded of a staggering 4 trillion odd shillings, an amount which could have constructed an additional 3,647km of new paved/tarmac roads,” the report states.

As part of the institutional strengthening of the road sector, government created UNRA which is responsible for the management, operation, development and maintenance of the country’s classified road network. The UNRA Act was passed by Parliament in 2006. Under statutory instrument, in December 2006, UNRA became a legal entity, and became fully operational in 2008.

The commission, in the report, indicated that the foundational basis for setting up UNRA was “sound and precise”.

“We have also found an unquestionable resolve of the government to fund UNRA’s success.”
However, there was “dramatic wheeling and dealing, insider trading and outright fraud through dubious payments for no work done as corruption was cascaded downwards,” the report reads in part.