Districts stuck as government withholds road funds

Kabarole District leaders inspect Kyembogo-Bwambya road in Busoro Sub-county in 2018. It was repaired with the Road Fund. PHOTO BY ALEX ASHABA

What you need to know:

  • Many local governments are disappointed that they will not be able to fix roads earlier planned for this financial year.
  • Local authorities in Luweero District, who had expected Shs240m under the Road Fund, will not be able to carry out particular road maintenance works, among other projects.

Districts are crying foul following a directive by government to withhold a portion of the Road Fund and use it at the centre.

The decision has derailed many districts’ programmes for maintenance and construction of feeder roads.
The Uganda Road Fund (URF) was established by an Act of Parliament in 2008 to finance routine and periodic maintenance of local government roads.

The body, has however, overtime decried inadequate funding from the central government, which has crippled road maintenance at districts.

Local authorities in Luweero District, who had expected Shs240m under the Road Fund, will not be able to carry out particular road maintenance works, among other projects.

“We shall be forced to suspend major projects that had been planned under the fourth quarter, but prioritise the little available funds for emergency projects,” Mr Ronald Ndawula, the district chairperson, said.

“We are lucky that we have successfully approved the Shs58.6b district budget for FY 2020/2021,” he added.
In Masaka Municipality, roads such as Kitovu, Speak, Mutesa 11, Soweto and Kajansembe Road as well as the drainage system in Kimaanya/Kyabakuza Division have been affected.

“About 50 per cent of the roadworks in the municipality have been affected, but we have reviewed the work plan and picked up the essential areas which we will work on with the limited resources available,” Mr Godfrey Kayemba, the municipality mayor, said.

The municipality had expected at least Shs1.1b for road maintenance.

Many roads left out
In Kyotera District, authorities received only Shs8m out of the expected Shs12m. Mr Tony Kalyango, a youth councillor, said they will do maintenance work on only two roads, including Lwankoni-Manyama and Kisuku-Kamagwa.

In Buikwe District, authorities say the fishing communities in Lugazi /Ssenyi Landing Site could be affected because roads such as Nkombwe and Busabaga are prone to flooding if they are not maintained.

“We already had a work plan and have roads that are in a very poor condition that were supposed to be worked on. The problem has worsened because the heavy rain in recent months has made our roads impassable,” Mr Mathias Kigongo, the district chairperson, said.

The district, which has a road network of 1,259kms that need to be worked on, has been receiving Shs1b per year.
Although districts get local revenue, some note that it is too little to take on the task of renovating roads.

Mr Sharif Kabakubya, the Namutumba town clerk, said their local revenue cannot cater for the opening and maintaining roads in town.

In Kamuli District, leaders say the Shs280m of road funds from the last quarter has not yet been utilised due to the Covid-19- related lockdown.

“We had scheduled road maintenance and spot improvement, but they have all stalled due to lockdown. The flash floods have worsened the situation,” Mr Grace Mulondo, the district works engineer, said, adding that the activities will be rolled out in the next financial year.

In Sheema, Mr David Kabigumira, the district chairperson, wondered why the funds were returning to the centre.

“Roads maintained by Local Government are very okay, and on the other hand, Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) has failed to work on their roads yet it has a lot of money. By taking this money back to the centre, they are failing government,” he said.

Mr Jaffari Basajjabalaba, Bushenyi district chairman concurs with his Sheema counterpart, saying: “The central government spends a lot of money on road maintenance compared to local governments. Grading a kilometre costs between Shs30m to Shs40m while local governments spend between Shs13m to Shs18m depending on the nature of terrain.”

“It is even better to increase this money; we have road equipment and qualified technical staff to do the work,” he added.
Mr Patrick Besigye Keihwa, the Kabale boss, said they had petitioned the Ministry of Finance over the suspension of the Road Fund at a time when we needed it most.

He said several bridges and roads in the district need to be fixed after they were destroyed by the April and May downpour.
“We had planned to work on the Kanara-Rutooma Road and Ruhagura-Mwera Road (16kms) among others,” Mr Mugabe said.

The Kanara Town Council chairman, Mr David Kor, echoed the same concerns, saying: “We had planned to work on Ntoroko Health Centre Road in the next financial year and if it is recalled, we shall be in a dilemma.”
Mr Pastoli Twinomuhangi, the Rubanda District vice chairperson, wants government to provide food relief to more than 120 people who were rendered jobless after the withdrawal ofthe funds.

Leaders in Kitagwenda District, which became operational last year, say the suspension will cripple the road department. The district has not yet received any road unit equipment from government.

“We were supposed to get Shs160m as Road Fund this year, but the money for the third quarter was not released and we managed to work on 23 kilometer road of Rwetuha-Mahyoro where we were hiring machines from other districts at Shs1m per day,” Mr Robert Mugabe, the district chairperson, said.

In the Teso Sub-region, leaders have described the withdrawal of the funds as ‘an attack on decentralisation’.

Mr Silas Aogon, the Kumi Municipality MP, said districts were skeptical about the recall because roads under central government are ‘worse’ than those supervised by local governments.
Leaders in Bukedea District fear that the suspension is likely to create bureaucratic tendencies.

Want more money
“Government should have given districts more money for roads. There is an uneven variance in the procurement of these roads; contracting 1Km central road is valued at Shs30m while 10km is Shs300m, this is much lower when we procure for works at the district. So using the centre is not cost effective,” Mr Moses Olemukan, the district chairperson, said. The district has a road network of 375 kilometres.

In Soroti District, Mr Henry Ddamba, the chief administrative officer, said the process of reprioritisation had affected districts, noting that Soroti missed out on Shs132m for fourth quarter.
The funds had been earmarked to facilitate works on Kamuda-Lale-Ochokican Road (12 Kms).

“Of the total district budget of Shs602m, we received Shs470m for the first and second quarters which were spent on facilitating works, but the challenge now is that government did not release Shs132m for the fourth quarter,” he said.

In the Lango Sub-region, Kwania District did not receive money for its road projects for the fourth quarter because it was not considered a priority in the Covid-19 response.

The district chairman, Mr Bazil Okello Onac, said they got information that because of the pandemic, there would be no money for Kwania.
“We stopped receiving this money in the third quarter and as a result, most of our feeder roads have been affected in Inomo, Chawente and Nambieso sub-counties,” Mr Okello said.

“The district needs to replan for the same road again to cover the length that remained in the subsequent budget instead of working on other roads,” he added.

Mr Denish Johnson Okello, his Alebtong counterpart, said some of the roads that have been affected by the budget cuts include Teamyel–Abako road, where only 7.6kms will be worked on out of the 11Kms.
In Acholi Sub-region, the Amuru District chairperson, Mr Michael Lakony, said the suspension of the funds will reduce service delivery since many remote areas can only be accessed via district roads.

Mr Yassin Wabomba, his deputy, said withholding the funds will reduce supervision of government projects.
However, Mr Wilson Watira, the Bududa District chairperson, welcomed the decision, saying it will relieve local governments of the burden of maintaining roads with little funds.

Mr Watire said the district has been struggling with Shs400m to maintain about 280kms of the roads annually.

Compiled by Philip Wafula, Sam Opio Caleb, Ronald Seebe, Alfred Tumushabe, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Dan Wandera, George Muron, David Oduut, Vincent Emong, Derick Kissa, Fahad Jjingo, Bill Oketch, Charity Akullo, Isaac Otwii, Polycap Kalokwera, Stephen Okello, Robert Muhereza, Fred Wambede, Joseph Omollo & Patrick Ebong.

priority areas
Otuke/Lira roads. The Otuke chief administrative officer, Mr Joshua Mabiya, said government has advised them to only focus on priority areas and wait until next financial year.

“We have been advised to spend only on priority areas and other activities like road works be suspended until next financial year because of the financial constraints the government is facing in fighting coronavirus,” he said. Similarly, Lira District and sub-counties have suspended several road projects after the government did not send funds for the fourth quarter.

Lira was supposed to receive Shs124m for the fourth quarter of this financial year but government did not disburse the funds due to the current Covid-19 crisis. The district receives Shs550m annually to maintain its more than 500km-road network.

Concerns

Decentralisation.
“This is likely to kill decentralisation and create more corruption-related problems. They should leave the funds to the district and instead add money to the local governments to open and rehabilitate more roads,” Mr Muhammad Mafabi, Mbale District council speaker

“We had expected to get about Shs195m to rehabilitate roads destroyed by heavy rain, but this will not be possible now,” Mr Dunstan Balaba, Tororo District CAO.

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