Parliament’s Committee on Public Accounts – Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) has asked the Uganda National Roads Authority to explain the cost of the 51-kilometre Kampala-Entebbe Expressway.
In a probe over queries raised by the Auditor General, the committee noted that the Shs35 billion per kilometre cost of the tolled expressway looks exorbitant and the roads agency should explain.
“How do we justify this to a lay person other than me; if this one is costing Shs35.4 billion per kilometre is a bit high,” said committee chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi.
The road cost US$476 million, approximated to be Shs1.8 trillion.
UNRA’s Head of Design, Eng. Patrick Muleme, defended the costing.
“The average cost per square kilometre of a bridge is high; UNRA carried out an independent audit for the cost based on the scope of what was to be done; looking at the bridges, UNRA was satisfied that the cost was reasonable,” he said.
Hon. Ssenyonyi then tasked UNRA to provide the document detailing the various study of the costing.
MPs also took issue with the management of collections from the road toll, managed by a contractor.
Eng. Joseph Otim, the Director of Road Maintenance at UNRA, placed collections at about Shs2.5 billion per month, Shs1 billion of which is set aside for maintenance and remuneration of the contractor’s staff.
The toll is collected by Egis Roads Operation S.A., a French company.
The committee demanded details of the maintenance, and took issue with the poor lighting of the road, making it a hotspot for accidents.
Hon. Muwada Nkunyingi (NUP, Kyaddondo County East) said motorists avoid the road at night due to the lighting issues, with UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina, committing that the contractor is in the advanced stages of lighting the expressway.
Chairperson Ssenyonyi asked about the progress of the loan repayment to China, which was the chief financier of the road.
“The collection from the toll is meant to repay the loan; if you give Shs1 billion for the contractor to do maintenance, how will the repayment be achieved?” he asked.
He also questioned how the Shs1 billion maintenance fee was arrived at.
The funds are placed in an escrow account, where the contractors draw the Shs1 billion every month, an issue that irked MP Richard Sebamala (DP, Bukoto Central County), who said that amounts to usurping Parliament’s powers to appropriate.
Kagina chipped in with an explanation.
“We can produce tomorrow [the details of the Shs1 billion maintenance fees]; the question of why the money was not going to the Consolidated Fund was really for the ease of payment for these [maintenance] services,” she said.