Saying a lot of it was returning to the Consolidated Fund unspent, MPs on the physical infrastructure committee had previously vowed to reduce budgetary funding for Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). They accused the Allen Kagina-led UNRA management of laziness and failing to utilize allocated funds.
But barely a month later, the same MPs find themselves with no option but to appropriate and approve the Shs4.3trn (basically Shs4300bn) the executive and finance Ministry have resolved to allocate UNRA for works-related spending in the next 12 months (FY2019/2020). The Shs4,300bn reflects an increment from the mere Shs3.1bn (Shs31,000bn) Kagina’s UNRA was allocated for the FY2018/2019 that is ending in July. This makes it 2 months to go.
The Ministry of Finance budgeting-related documents, that we have glanced upon, indicate that UNRA will now be allocated Shs43,000bn (basically Shs4.3trn) to finance a number of works projects many of which are related to the NRM big YK Museveni’s efforts to win the 2021 general elections. The Shs4.3trn implies that Museveni (who actually is the finance Minister only delegating the role to Matia Kasaija) is increasing the modestly performing UNRA’s budget by Shs1,000bn!
This increment is being justified as funding for national road maintenance, construction of 518kms of new roads, construction of 58 new bridges and compensating PAPs for the acquisition of more than 1,217 hectares of land (technically called right of way) during the FY2019/2020. Kagina has been permitted to spend up to Shs312.5bn on road maintenance alone, an item that got zero funding in the FY2018/19. It’s like she is now being compensated.
Betterment of ferry services will sink up to Shs30bn which is twice more the Shs16.5bn that was allocated in the preceding FY. 95km Kampala-Jinja Express Way will commence with Shs388bn being allocated. This is an improvement from the mere Shs1.5bn that was allocated in the previous year.
Other key works projects to be undertaken include 29kms Luwero-Butalangu road, 191km Rwenkunye-Apac-Acholibur road, 20km Migera-Kafu and 92km Muyembe-Nakapiripirit road. It’s intriguing that a larger fraction of the Shs1trn increment will go into land compensation which government says has been contributing over 70% of the cost or expense for every new road project UNRA undertakes. This item of land acquisition will (in FY2019/2020) cost UNRA Shs412bn which is almost twice the Shs249bn that was available for the same item in the FY2018/19.
KUTESA APPEARS B4 MPS
Mary Kutesa Kamuli, who is currently holding the docket of UNRA in Allen Kagina’s absence, last week told MPs on the physical infrastructure committee that mere Shs412bn was even not enough because many projects have actually stalled for lack of funds to compensate Project Affected Persons. She said UNRA had been constrained for a while because the budget allocated for land acquisition had for the last four years stagnated at mere Shs249bn. She says the increment to Shs412bn enhances UNRA’s efforts to expeditiously acquire right of way and accomplish the urgently needed tourism and oil roads which the President considers a big priority given their potential to boost our foreign exchange receipts as a country.
Kutesa illustrated the backlog of PAPs awaiting compensation by revealing that the Shs246bn UNRA was availed in the ongoing FY2018/2019 (for the PAPs item) was exhausted in first 6 months of the FY because many had been waiting. Finance Ministry records show that there are currently over 10,841 PAPs in the areas comprising the 6 oil roads which UNRA must work on in the next 12 months. According to Kutesa, these roads include Masindi (Kisanja)-Park Junction, Tangi (Pakwach Junction-Paraa-Buliisa, Wanseko-Bugungu, Hoima-Butiaba-Wanseko, Buhimba-Nalweyo-Bulamagi and Bulamagi-Igagyaza-Kakumiro and Lusalira-Nkonge-Lumegere-Sembabule roads. But as per now, only 57% of the designated PAPs have been compensated. It simply means the road works can’t be carried on until the remaining 43% too get their pay cheque. This is why projects stall and delay, something committee member Robert Kasule of Nansana Municipality says will cost the NRM votes in the 2021 elections.
SEKITOLEKO BASHES UNRA
It’s also true that of the 2,774 PAPs concerned with the Masindi-Biiso, Kabaale-Kizirafumbi and Hohwa-Nyairongo-Kyaruseha oil road projects, only 66% have been compensated. Committee chairperson Robert Kafeero Sekitoleko insists that UNRA can’t hide behind compensation claims to escape criticism for alarmingly very low levels of absorption of the funds allocated to them. He says it’s inexcusable for an entity that has been taking close to 60% of the money going to the entire roads and transport sector to perform so dismally. He demanded that the UNRA management furnishes MPs with a list of national roads clearly distinguishing those that have secured funding and those that haven’t. He nevertheless commended UNRA management for implementing FY2018/19 activities like the commissioning of the New Jinja Bridge and ensuring that the contractor rectifies the loopholes previously identified by the committee during a fact-finding visit. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.