The Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) has taken over works on the 3.5kilometre Saaka Swamp that connects Kaliro and Pallisa Districts following allegations of shoddy works that have cost the taxpayer more than Shs6b.
Ms Allen Kagina, the Unra executive director, on Wednesday said her agency will take over the works effective yesterday (Thursday).
The decision comes after President Museveni reportedly received several complaints that the company contracted by the Ministry of Works and Transport had failed to do the works.
“The work is extensive; We shall start by preparing the bidding documents and invite companies to bid. The bidding process should take a month or so, while construction will take 24 months,” Ms Kagina said.
She added that Unra will also undertake detailed condition assessment of structures, geotechnical investigations and surveys that will inform the scope and cost of the work.
A site visit by the State House Anti-corruption Unit and Unra officials on Wednesday found a section of the road and culverts had been washed away.
There were also complaints raised particularly on the quality of culverts put in the soil without casting.
Since 2019 when the section of the swamp became impassable, at least 30 people have died, with the latest fatalities happening last year when a seven-man entourage of a newly-wedded couple plunged into the swamp.
According to local authorities, four people were killed during incident leaving one unaccounted for to-date.
Lt Col Edith Nakalema, the head of the State House Anti-corruption Unit, said they will follow-up on whoever did not fulfil their obligation and find out why more than Shs6b was spent on works that didn’t last even six months.
“Maybe someone was careless or corrupt, but importantly, losing lives is something that we can’t take lightly. There are reports that people died because of these shoddy works,” she said.
She added: “His Excellency [the President] is greatly dismayed by this state of affairs and tasked us to rapidly investigate the complaints raised.”
Mr Robert Ibanda Swaga, the district councillor for Namwiwa Sub-county, said the district leadership was never involved in the project.
Mr Ibanda claimed the contractor used poor quality materials and was more interested in meeting the deadline instead of ensuring quality work.
He also faulted the Ministry of Works for being both supervisor and implementers of the project.
Upon the failure by the contractor to deliver, the ministry of undertook the works on the crossing using the ‘Force Account’ method, raising questions on their interest on a road that was under the mandate of Unra.
A source at Unra revealed that roads are either designed by Ministry of Transport, Unra or the local government.
“At some point, because of capacity issues, people apply to have their roads taken over by Unra, and we take over them; but there are cases when the ministry says Unra won’t take over and so be it,” the source said.