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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where did the 2 trillion shillings go?

Kampala - Over the last two financial years, the Works and Transport ministry has received Shs2 trillion for maintenance and tarmacking of new roads in the country. But critics say that there is little impact on ground to reflect the money advanced to the ministry.

Meanwhile, Works and Transport Minister, Eng. John Nasasira last week during a meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Physical Infrastructure said his ministry has so far performed well and needed the same amount, or perhaps an increment, in the next financial year to build a better road network across the country.

Ugandans are wondering what exactly the Shs2 trillion has done, and why some quarters of the country are yet to benefit from this money as far as the tarmacking of roads in these areas are concerned. Contrary to the public perception, Eng. Nasasira says there are achievements and indicators that show that the Shs2 trillion has been utilised to improved the country’s road network which has helped the steady and fast movement of goods and services and thus led to economic growth.

"It’s not true for people to claim that there is no work done. I challenge those who say that there is no difference in the improvement in the road network. For example all our major highways have been worked on,” Eng. Nasasira said. “There are a number of challenges which the public doesn’t know, especially those in towns and cities where people still think that it’s the ministry's responsibility but in reality, it is the local governments responsible for such roads.”

Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) Director for Planning, Mr David Luyimbazi agrees with Eng. Nasasira, saying UNRA’s master plan is to complete major highways before they can shift attention to other internal routes. “UNRA has almost completed major highways and soon we shall be dealing with other internal roads but there is need for cooporation between UNRA and the public as far as maintaining these roads are concerned. Look at the Northern Bypass; the community there is busy dumping along the road which is dangerous” Mr Luyimbazi said. UNRA became operational in July 2008, and its mandate is to efficiently and effectively manage and maintain the national road network currently totalling 20,000 kilometres.

UNRA is also responsible for ferries which link national roads and controlling axle load. But experts say limited capacity of the private sector on the market with a limited number of contractors and consultants capable of implementing big projects and weak capacity in local governments is easily seen in areas like Kampala with potholes. Eng. Nasasira says his ministry is aware of the problem and is soon launching a standard manual for all contractors in the country to follow. “That problem has been rampant but soon we will address it because even the few who are available are over stretched and unable to deliver projects on time, while the local contractors lack skilled personnel, equipment and financial capacity to efficiently execute projects,” he said. It is anticipated that the approved policy on the development of the National Construction Industry will go a long way in addressing the capacity of the industry.

Nevertheless, the ministry has been in the spotlight over poor roads network that had deteriorated. And with latest being accusation from opposition members of Parliament who have accused the government of only maintaining and building good roads in the western region. But the minister said roads are identified according to their importance. “That talk is idle, just look at our next plan of roads to benefit from the next phase, we have roads in Bugisu, and we are tarmacking stretches like the Soroti-Dokolo Road so are all these examples in western Uganda,” Eng. Nasasira said. However, Mr Nasasira acknowledged the delay in implementing their programme reasoning that like any other sector, his ministry faces challenges and constraints in overall sector performance and delayed procurement. Procurement is a big challenge affecting implementation and absorption, he said.

Eng. Nasasira faults the long procurement process caused by the need to comply with PPDA and development partners’ procurement benchmarks as some of the tiresome processes that have tended to prolong the process that sometimes takes two years to complete. “Some delays are caused by applications for administrative review from unsuccessful bidders and as a result much of the first half of the Financial Year was spent procuring,” he said.

And to reduce on this delay, UNRA plans to start the procurement process before the commencement of the new financial year. The minister also says Shs1 trillion is going to help in completing the construction of more ferries.


ADDENDUM

First Lady, Janet Museveni, and Works and Transport minister, Eng. John Nasasira, have clashed over the bad state of roads in the country.

Janet’s fury reportedly came to light last Wednesday during a cabinet meeting chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister, Eriya Kategaya. During the meeting, according to sources, Nasasira laboured to explain the state of roads. Apparently, Nasasira was marketing a fresh loan with which to improve the road sector, garbage collection and fire fighting across the country. However, sources said, much as cabinet fully granted his request, the tough-talking First Lady grilled Nasasira as to why his sector is performing poorly to the extent that everywhere one turns, there are potholes, piles of garbage and choking dust. “Every time you ask for money, we give it to you, yet there is no change,” the visibly irate First Lady, who also doubles as the state minister for Karamoja, reportedly told the engineer. “There is dust, potholes, mud, flies and garbage everywhere. Potholes, potholes! What is the problem? When shall we have the country you present on paper vis-à-vis the one we are seeing? What is the problem? There is no change!”

It is reported that Nasasira promised that once he gets the money, he would do wonders. This money, he explained, would be used to provide equipment to various districts for garbage collection, road construction and fire fighting. Citing the March 16 Kasubi tombs fire, Nasasira reasoned that it would not have destroyed the tombs to the extent it did if there were sufficient water supply centres. With his new project, he reportedly told cabinet, he intends to establish water supply centres positiones strategically to ensure an assured supply of water in case of fire outbreaks.

Janet’s grilling comes at a time when the Public Accounts Committee is investigating Nasasira’s ministry over CHOGM funds that were meant to fix City roads in 2007, but have consequently turned into fish ponds.

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