Govt must find solution to what’s ailing road projects

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Road projects
  • Our view: We reckon a travel advisory would not only be courteous but also help affected parties plan better.

Last week, residents of Namuwongo in suburban Kampala expressed their misgivings about road construction works that have in recent weeks been a major source of discomfort. The residents gave their two cents on Yogera Naffe, a discussion show that airs Thursdays in NTV Uganda’s Luganda bulletin.

One common pain point was that closure of roads—moreover in a summary manner—has adversely affected corner shops that rely on motorists to bolster their sales.

The grievances of the Namuwongo residents should not be reduced to a footnote as some would want. State actors, and by extension their project implementors, have always been in the habit of closing roads without the customary formalities.

This can be quite messy as we here at Monitor Publications Limited have learnt after a road leading to our offices in Namuwongo was summarily closed last Friday.

While the repair works on the road are long overdue, we reckon a travel advisory would not only be courteous but also help affected parties plan better.

Another best practice eluding responsible authorities is sticking to detailed plans with consistent and conscientious regularity. Indeed, in Uganda it is not a vulgar surprise to have road projects running late.

A 2022/2023 House Budget Committee report for instance indicated that only 10 out of 85 road projects were at the time on schedule. This represented an abjectly poor completion rate of 11.8 percent.

In fact, it is estimated that on average construction of roads in Uganda stalls for, wait for it, 18 months. That is six months shy of straddling two years.

This is, by any measure, staggeringly bad. Even worse is the fact that foot-dragging has cost the country’s construction industry a little over $100 million across the past 10 years.

Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, the Works and Transport minister, has previously disclosed that the government loses Shs120 million on a weekly basis on delayed road projects.

While the aforesaid statistical computations underscore the fact that, whichever way you look, the optics are infernal, the rot can be arrested if state actors were intentional.

For instance, the government has been encouraged to predispose itself to dispute adjudication to address the Achilles heel of disputes at multiple levels that remain a clear and present danger.

These disputes are known to throw plans into turmoil. The cost of inaction is quite punishing. As indeed is the cost of foot-dragging or equivocating.

Just this week, Betty Nambooze Bakireke, the Mukono Municipality lawmaker, articulated her concerns about the game of hide-and-seek that has been played around Kampala-Jinja Highway.

Billions of shillings have been lost to road rehabilitation undertakings that ended up doing anything but what they were supposed to do. This is sad, mad, and bad. Luckily, it can be effortlessly solved.

To get there, state actors should learn to do the simple things. And do them fast. Take communicating better and fluently.

Surely, this is not rocket science; yet state actors would want us to believe that it is just that. We urge the government to wake up and smell the coffee. It cannot keep kicking the proverbial can down the road.