UNRA chokes on Shs140b debt

Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) executive director Allen Kagina appears before the committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprise (Cosase) at Parliament on November 16, 2022. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA.

What you need to know:

  • Ms Kagina told lawmakers that the money the authority is getting is not enough to cater for all its needs.

The executive director of the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), Ms Allen Kagina, has told lawmakers that her entity is struggling to clear a debt of more than Shs140b. 

Appearing before Parliament’s committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), which is investigating the findings of the 2020/2021 Auditor General report, Ms Kagina said the Authority is yet to pay several project affected persons.

She added that a huge chunk of the money given to the Authority is used to clear debts.

“But we are constantly getting cuts," she said.

She added: “… in the first quarter, we didn’t get a shilling on development and yet we are continuing to go to people and saying we want land to construct roads. If we get adequate funding, we can acquire land quickly and move faster.”

This came after the committee chaired by Mr Joel Ssenyonyi (Nakawa West) tasked Unra’s top brass to explain the delays in various road projects in the country including the Kampala-Jinja Express Highway. 

Claims of bribery at weighbridges

On Tuesday, the committee instructed police to investigate claims that Unra officials at various weighbridges in the country were asking for bribes.

As he made the directive, Mr Ssenyonyi revealed that he had a list of suspects, conduits such as phone numbers where the alleged bribe money was sent and the stations most affected by the vice. The information was, however, not made public but was submitted to the police to help with the investigations.

“We must be able to deal with the culprits because if there is leakage at the bottom yet you are struggling with money for projects and there is a leakage which you must arrest because if someone is supposed to pay a penalty, and they pay a bribe, your system doesn’t capture it,” Mr Ssenyonyi said, adding, “The abuse also continues because someone will overload twice because they know they will get past the weighbridges.”

It is not clear when the findings of the probe will be presented in Parliament, but Unra pledged to deliver a report detailing the actions taken against its errant officials who were caught engaging in the vice.

The director of road infrastructure, Mr John Bosco Ssejjemba, said at least five officials who were caught engaging in the vice were fired.

“The authority runs a zero tolerance to corruption, but there will always be those bad apples. But when this information comes to us, we have taken a tough stand against it,” Mr Ssejjemba said.

Ms Allen Kagina said there are leakages in the authority that her office has constantly worked towards closing. She added her office has come up with several strategies to fix the issues.

“There are also challenges related to capacity and some of the solutions proposed by the committee like CCTV are actually good. They aren’t a full solution but they will help,” Ms Kagina said.

She added: “Allow us do a comprehensive review of the management of axle load restrictions on our network and we can prepare proposals. But in essence, I want to say that this area is an area that needs to be reviewed.”

In response, Mr Ssenyonyi said: “It is important that you people at the top understand what is happening down there. You need to be sure of that entire structure and how it operates…”

Mr Ssejjemba said Unra managed to collect more than Shs1.5 billion in the last financial year in the form of penalty charges imposed on drivers whowere found to have overloaded trucks.

Weighbridges

Uganda currently has a minimum of nine weighbridges. These are both mobile and permanently stationed bridges.

The bridges are on Kasese, Kampala, Masaka road, Kamudini, Mbale and Elegu. Others are found in Luweero, Magamaga Mbarara, and Lukaaya.


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