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The district leaders describe what they have received from the government for road maintenance as a mere drop in the ocean, given that most access roads get damaged during this rainy season
Government, through the Uganda Road Fund (URF) earlier this month announced a release of Shs68.5 billion to all districts countrywide for the maintenance of various public roads.
According to a notice to all accounting officers, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development released the money and it was disbursed to the beneficiary administrative units.
The money was channeled through Uganda National Roads Authority – Unra (Shs24b), Kampala Capital City Authority – KCCA (Shs6.2b), and District Urban and Community Access Roads –DUCAR (Shs38.2b).
In the communication, the URF executive director, Mr Andrew Naimanye, directed that agencies should implement road maintenance works on only those road schemes approved in the already signed performance agreements between URF and the district administrations.
However, there is a general outcry that road maintenance funds are declining, with leaders saying what they received is a mere drop in the ocean. This is because most access roads get damaged during this rainy season.
Agriculture is the main economic activity in rural areas. Farmers engage in mostly subsistence farming to feed their families and then sell their surplus to raise money to meet family needs such as health and education.
And for the community to exploit the potential of agriculture, they must be supported with a good road network in order to transport their goods to market.
However, during the rainy season, most roads in rural areas become impassable.
In Kwania District, for instance, many roads are now cut off by floods, making it difficult for residents to access social amenities such as schools, hospitals and markets.
Mr Ambrose Ekak, a resident of Iteki-ber in Nambieso Sub-county, said most of the roads in their area are now impassable.
“Roads connecting people in our area to Abongomola Sub-county are flooded and we are finding it hard to access the market,” he said.
Mr Francis Odyomo, a resident of Awara Village, Abapiri Parish in Chawente Sub-county, Apac District, said the roads connecting to Apac Hospital were also cut off by floods.
“To access Apac Town, we have to pass via Akokoro, which is about 60kms because the shortest route of about 25kms is cut off by floods,” he said.
There are concerns that the poor road network has contributed to the rise in prices of commodities.
“Transport fares have increased. For example, transport fare to Lira City is now Shs25,000, up from Shs15,000 due to bad roads and the increase in fuel prices,” Mr Alfred Jokene, a resident of Tarogali Tarogali Trading Centre in Ibuje Sub-county, said.
Mr Fred Kejeron Odur, the Apac District chairperson for works and technical services, said the district has received only Shs25m out of the Shs110m budgeted forroad works in the first quarter of the current financial year.
“There are many bad roads in our district but we lack funds to work on them. We shall prioritise roads that have been cut off by floods,” he said.
The responsibility to construct new roads and maintain the damaged ones in the districts is split between Unra and local governments.
The Kwania District vice chairperson, Mr Geoffrey Eling Owera, also the leader of government business, said the current budget cut has greatly affected the road and engineering department.
“We budgeted for Shs450m for road maintenance but we have received only Sh39m. Unlike other districts, we don’t have road equipment. So, we are appealing to the community to do us a favour because we shall not be able to work on many roads,” Mr Owera said.
The challenge of bad roads and insufficient funds to fix them is countrywide, according to a mini survey conducted by the Daily Monitor last week.
In Nakasongola, floods have destroyed more than 40 percent of the road network, while several roads in other areas are in bad shape, Mr Sam Kigula, the district chairperson, said.
Mr Aaron Turahi, the Isingiro District chairperson, said most of the economic activities in the district cannot go on because of poor road network.
“We don’t have funds to work on these roads. Imagine we have a 570-km road network but we are only given Shs25m every quarter. What can this money do?” he said.
The Mbarara District roads engineer, Mr William Bananuka, said the district has a 258-km road network. Whereas they had budgeted for Shs112m for road maintenance this quarter, they only received Shs25m from URF.
“More than 100kms of our road network are in a sorry state and several bridges, especially those in wetlands, also need to be urgently worked on. Some of our road equipment such as the grader are grounded,” he said.
Mr Willy Bataringaya, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Bushenyi District, said: “Out of the Shs600m budget for roads, we have only received Shs30m in the first quarter. We are not going to work on any road because we want to use the money to fix our grader.”
Mr Adam Banyenzaki, the Bushenyi Ishaka Municipality engineer, said they had so far received Shs26m from URF.
“But we have received a letter indicating that we will get additional funding of Shs141 million,” he said.
Mr Stephen Ochola, the Serere District chairperson, said of the 500kms of roads that they are meant to work on as a district, they have been allocated only Shs25m.
In Katakwi, Mr Godfrey Omolo, the district chairperson, said they have been advanced Shs25m. Katakwi has 900kms of roads.
The Wakiso District senior engineer, Mr Sam Mwesigwa, said: “We’re focusing on roads which need maintenance, especially those that pass through swamps and need box culverts. Our team of engineers is going to select the most dilapidated ones,” he said.
Lwengo District chairperson Ibrahim Kitatta said they expected to receive about Shs436m to work on the district road network covering over 357kms, but they were surprised to receive only Shs25m, which he said cannot even work on a 14-km stretch.
“I don’t think we will be able to do any roadworks with this quota release. We are going to keep the money to wait for the next quota to see if we shall get any increment,” he said.
In Mukono, the district Chief Administrative Officer, Mr James Nkatta, said they were yet to receive their share of the road fund.
Mr Adrian Wasswa Ddungu, the Buvuma District chairperson, said his district had budgeted Shs180m for roadworks, but the government gave to them only Shs100m.
“Ever since we received the district road equipment, the tyres and batteries have never been replaced. Part of this money is going to be spent on servicing and buying of spare parts,” he said.
Mr Ismail Bwanika, the Raķai District chairperson, said:“Even before the budget cut, the funds were insufficient and now they have reduced it. This will worsen the state of roads in rural districts like ours.”
The Rubanda District chairperson, Mr Stephen Ampeire Kasyaba, appealed to the government to consider special emergency fund allocation of at least Shs100m to enable them handle landslides that affect roads during the rainy season.
Drop in the ocean
The Jinja District chairperson, Mr Moses Batwala, said most roads in the district are in a sorry state, which has affected service delivery in the area.
“You can’t allocate Shs120m for one year for road works. That money is too little, especially at this time when fuel prices are skyrocketing,” he said.
Arua District chairperson Alfred Okuonzi said: “We are suffocating. These releases to the district are making our government unpopular. We are not happy to see our government misrepresented.”
Mr Bernard Ayimani, the Yumbe District engineer, said the total budget for roadworks in the district for this financial year is about Shs1.4b.
“In the first phase, the government released a total of Shs30m and there was an additional release of Shs169.5m. We have not yet received these funds in our accounts but they have remained on the paper,” he said.
In Adjumani District, the majority of feeder and community access roads have become impassable and this has affected the movement of people, especially to key service centres, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Mr Grandfield Omonda Oryono, said.
Roads in Uganda
Roads are the predominant mode of transport in African countries (Uganda inclusive), and represent a critical element for economic development.
In Uganda, this reliance led to the establishment of Uganda Road Fund (URF), a body responsible for financing of road maintenance in the country.
URF was established by an Act of Parliament in 2008 (the Act) and became operational in 2010.
Compiled by Bill Oketch, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Simon Peter Emwamu, Joseph Kiggundu, Malik F JJjingo, Diphas Kiguli, Felix Warom Okello, Clement Aluma, Patrick Okaba, Marko Taibot, Robert Elema, Denis Edema,Wilson Kutamba, Dan Wandera, Abubaker Kirunda, Robert Muhereza, Obed Kankiriho, Philip Wafula, Rajab Mukombozi,Milton Bandiho, Perez Rumanzi, Sam Caleb Opio & Tausi Nakato.