Legislators have appealed to government to increase funding for road maintenance equipment, arguing that their continued breakdown is to blame for the miserable road network across the country.
They made the plea during plenary sitting on Wednesday, 20 October 2021, in response to a statement by the State Minister of Works and Transport, Musa Ecweru on the status of roads in Uganda presented on 1Tuesday, 9 October 2021.
The statement revealed that the budget allocation for road equipment maintenance is now Shs16 billion, against a maintenance requirement of Shs44.6 billion.
Hon Cuthbert Abigaba (NRM, Kibaale County) said that government should prioritise maintenance of equipment to realise the benefits of an improved road network.
“With our able engineers in the districts, if we are well facilitated to maintain these machines, we shall have them for many more years and this will reduce the stress from the ministry,” he said.
Hon Goretti Namugga (NUP, Mawogola County South) advised the ministry to make a comprehensive assessment on road equipment countrywide, saying that some of the equipment break down because they are of poor quality.
“The minister said that they are yet to buy new equipment for new districts but even the equipment for the old districts has already broken down,” she said.
Hon Stella Atyang (NRM, Moroto district) called on the ministry to construct more weigh bridges to regulate the load of the trucks – such that the lifespan of the roads increase, thereby reducing maintenance costs.
She added, “I was of the view that the ministry decentralises maintenance of these equipment. In Moroto, we have to transport the equipment all the way to Gulu district which is so far.”
Hon Teddy Nambooze (NUP, Mpigi district) raised concern over the worsening state of rural access roads under Local Government, arguing that they have been neglected and yet they are significant links to the highways.
“The maintenance budgets through which these roads operate are shrinking due to a low local revenue base. These roads are crucial and if we continue ignoring them, even the highways we are investing in remain less important,” she said.
Hon Dicksons Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) blamed the worsening state of some of the roads on lack of axle weight limits.
“It is even worse for local roads. We need by-laws that can protect local roads where Uganda National Roads Authority is not present,” he said.
He also said that local content percentage should increase from the current 38 to 50 per cent, as a way of retaining more revenue in the country.
“This is not satisfactory. We are looking for more revenue. The more that stays in this economy, the better for us. We need to see that we abide by the Local Content Bill to ensure that our economy remains robust,” he said.
Hon Sarah Opendi (NRM, Tororo district) cautioned that unless the Road Fund Act, which mandates government to remit collections to the Fund is rightly implemented, the road sector will continue to face challenges of inadequate financing.
“Section 21 of the Road Fund Act says that all money collected from various sources shall be remitted to the Road Fund monthly. Currently the Fund is given money as and when the Finance ministry decides, this must end,” Opendi said.
Shadow Minister for Works and Transport, Hon Yusuf Nsibambi, (FDC, Mawokoto County South) said that while performance on Class A roads has improved, other classes of roads require more work.
“The minister gave the impression that all is well but the overall performance rate is very low. There are some roads where construction has not commenced even after funds were advanced,” he said.
He also proposed that Parliament constitutes an adhoc committee or directs the committee on Physical Infrastructure to study the status of roads countrywide.
“It cannot be comprehensively handled through submission by the ministry which over the years has failed to make significant difference. We need something comprehensively handled, we are not giving Ugandans gifts, they are entitled to good roads,” said Nsibambi.
The Minister of Works and Transport, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala informed MPs that they have on several occasions requested for an increment in their road equipment maintenance budget to no avail.
“We are investing in construction of the roads and we should up the budget on maintenance, otherwise these roads will not survive the 15 years we expect them to,” he said.
Katumba Wamala added that the Road Fund is inadequate to meet the needs as required because it is financed under the Consolidated Fund.
“We have been fighting for this for many years. The Act is very clear that The Road Fund should grow into a second generation so that all the funds which are collected are put into the Road Fund account and money disbursed to districts,”
He also said that the ministry is engaging commercial banks to develop a special interest lending rate for local contractors as a way of promoting local content.
“We feel that the 30 per cent is still inadequate. We have been encouraging local contractors because in the law any contact which is Shs45 billion and below is ring-fenced for a local contractor,” he added.
In response to a concern over the increasing traffic jam in Kampala, Katumba Wamala said that the ministry, in partnership with Kampala Capital City Authority, has identified critical roads to be worked on to decongest Kampala and these include; Nakawuka-Kasange, Kiira-Matuuga and Mpigi express way among others.