MPs have requested the works and transport ministry to consider Public-Private Partnerships to push projects like the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) forward.
The SGR is government project purposed to develop a modern and efficient railway transport system to address both the freight and passenger transportation needs of the country.
Speaking at an interaction between the Committee on Physical Infrastructure and the Ministry of Works and Transport and sector players on the Ministerial Policy Statement on Tuesday, 19 April 2022, Hon. Sarah Opendi (NRM, Tororo District) said the PPP was a more sure way of achieving results.
“For how long shall we wait for this project to materialise? The SGR is a very profitable venture and we should call on people out there who have the funds to take it on and later hand it to Government. Not everybody should be on the road driving” she said.
According to the SGR Uganda project office, Uganda together with her northern corridor partner states of Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan in 2014 signed a regional SGR protocol for a seamless transport system interconnecting their cities as well as connecting them to the coast of Mombasa. DR Congo has also expressed interest in joining the initiative.
Nakawa Division East MP, Hon. Ronald Balimwezo, said UNRA’s performance is worrying, noting that it had received only 43 per cent budget release to carry out its work.
He noted that continued delayed compensation of project affected persons for projects like the SGR will put more costs on government because of the rising value of land.
“This is very unfortunate and we should push the finance ministry to release funds for infrastructure development. When someone takes long without being compensated, we end up paying lots of money in reassessment,” said Balimwezo.
Hon. Nathan Byanyima (NRM, Bukanga North County) tasked the works ministry to set realistic targets and carry out practical projects that fit within their resource envelope.
The State Minister for Works and Transport (Works), Hon. Musa Ecweru, attributed the slow pace of infrastructure works to a limited resource envelope.
Committee deputy chairperson, Hon. Kasolo (2nd, left) and Minister Musa Eweru (2nd right) at the meeting in Parliament
The budget for the Ministry of Works and Transport for Financial Year 2022/2023 stands at Shs781.97 billion.
“Under the Uganda National Roads Authority, there are supposed to be contract sites taken over by contractors but this cannot be done because the Ministry of Finance has been slow in making a few things happen,” said Ecweru.
He added that this has far reaching ramifications, noting that the longer the projects are kept on mark time, the more their expenses grow for the country.
However, Sandra Kebirungi, a principal economist at the finance ministry said that much as the works ministry asked for funding for among other things, road maintenance, her ministry has been prioritising expenditure to enable government manage the COVID-19 pandemic using the saved monies.
The committee deputy chairperson, Hon. Robert Kasolo, raised concern about road safety, which he said has been widely discussed by the House, and needs urgent attention to curb road accidents.
Hon. Roland Ndyomugyenyi (Indep., Rukiga County) raised concern about road equipment for districts which have not been made available especially to the newly created districts.
“This has been an on ongoing project and its becomes a challenge when Parliament keeps giving high level recommendations that are good for our people, but the Ministry of Works and Ministry of Finance keep dragging their feet on such important matters,” Ndyomugyenyi said.
Hon. Nelson Okello (UPC, Maruzi North County) appealed for more funding to the Uganda Road Fund so that projects including the District, Urban and Community Access Roads (DUCAR) can be effectively worked on.
Kyamuswa County MP, Hon. Moses Kabuusu, raised concern about the refusal by the to issue operation licenses to private water transport operators with many of them being denied transport routes.
“We should attract private operators to provide transport on our inland lakes. In Mwanza, private operators own vessels on the lake and provide services alongside the Government,” Kabuusu said.
UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina told MPs that the Authority was severely affected by budget cuts and that a larger chunk of their budget will be used to fix the badly damaged roads.