No funds to complete road projects, says Gen Katumba

Works minister Gen Edward Katumba Wamala . PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The minister informed MPs that several running projects are being undertaken in arrears and that the government is losing about Shs124 million weekly in loan interest payments.

The Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala, has expressed frustration over the budget suppression which he says has stalled several projects earmarked under the works sub-sector in the National Development Plan (NDP) III.

“Most of our projects are not moving, we are not paying contractors and we cannot start new projects before completing the ones that had started,” Gen Katumba told the Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure while presenting the ministry’s budget framework paper for the Financial Year 2022/2023 last Thursday.

The minister informed MPs that several running projects are being undertaken in arrears and that the government is losing about Shs124 million weekly in loan interest payments.

“On average we lose about Shs124 million every week in terms of interest on unpaid money. I am worried about how the budget is performing. I fear that if we continue like this then it will be very difficult for us to meet the targets,” Gen Katumba said.

“There are some contracts which we committed to Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) and we even scheduled some because we were promised money but we have not seen the money. If this is how we are going to proceed, even this budget framework paper or whatever plans we have will not help,” the minister added.

Part of the projects affected are 19 roads under preparation, 22 under procurement and 42 under upgrade.

In the 2021/2022 budget, Unra was allocated Shs3.1 trillion, which the minister said was insufficient to meet the set targets.

Parliament had recommended an additional Shs100b to be added to Unra to embark on development of 18 selected roads but the money was not availed to the roads authority.

Nakasero-Northern bypass, Kampala-Busunju-Hoima expressway, Kibuye-Busega expressway, Kampala Outerbelt, Kampala-Bombo expressway, Kayunga-Bbale-Galiraya, Arua-Terego-Moyo and Mbale-Budadiri-Namagumba are part of the selected projects that were meant to be developed in the Financial Year 2021/2022.

The same recommendation was made for the Uganda Road Fund (URF) to be allocated at least an additional Shs100b for the Financial Year 2021/2022.

This was to ensure sustainability of the road network in the country distributed as follows; National road maintenance (Shs50b), district roads (Shs20b), municipal roads (Shs10b), KCCA roads (Shs5b) and Shs 5b for emergency intervention for flood prone areas such as Kasese, Bulambuli, Bududa, and Ntoroko.

The Finance ministry, however, did not allocate the additional Shs100b to the road fund budget, which stagnated at Shs506b.

The legislators advised the ministry to proritise construction and maintenance of roads that have a direct impact on the traffic jam in Kampala.

“MPs need to allocate funds adequately to address the recurring problem of traffic jam. It is disastrous to continue having many undone roads which have the potential to decongest the city,” Mr Nathan Byanyima, the Bukanga North MP, said.

Tororo Woman MP Sarah Opendi attributed the poor state of roads to the delay in formulation of regulations for the operationalisation of the Uganda Road Fund Act.

“We cannot have a road fund where it is clearly stated that all monies collected must be ring-fenced to finance road maintenance and then the finance ministry just sits and allocated as it wishes,” Ms Opendi said.

Meanwhile, the minister has reiterated that all government officials must pay the road toll fees when using the Entebbe Expressway. The tolling on the 51km road that was built using a $350 million (Shs1.2 trillion) loan from Exim Bank of China started on January 8.

It is only the presidential convoy, ambulances, and emergency fire brigade vehicles that are exempted from paying the fees, according to Section 9(2) of the Road Act 2019.

Gen Katumba also said security cars strictly on patrol mission can be exempted from paying. He, however, informed MPs that they were reconsidering other categories of individuals and agencies that will be exempted from paying the toll fees.