Mbale City engineer on the spot over utilization of road funds

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Mbale City engineer on the spot over utilization of road funds
Mbale City engineer Johnson Gimuyi

Mbale City  engineer Johnson Gimuyi  has found himself under the microscope as concerns mount regarding the handling of road rehabilitation funds, sparking demands for accountability from stakeholders.

During a recent meeting of the roads committee, the engineer failed to avail  expenditure for the substantial funds allocated to road rehabilitation, particularly the shs500 million disbursed in the second quarter of the 2023/24 financial year.

Gimuyi attributed the lack of expenditure report to an allegedly unstable electronic “system”, a claim met with skepticism by committee members.

The roads committee consisting of MPS and local government leaders is mandated to approve budgets and workplans and oversight for the utilization of road funds envisioned to bolster checks and balances.

In response , the committee chairperson and Industrial Division MP Karim Masaba took decisive action by temporarily suspending the proceedings, pending availability of the report.

Upon insistence, Gimuyi hastily presented a report, shedding light on the discrepancies between expenditures and physical works.

The report revealed a significant portion of shs370 million  was spent on the purchase of materials, adding to shs250 million worth of material balances from the previous financial year.

Gimuyi attributed this variance to the challenges posed by the  unstable electronic system, which he claimed hindered the efficient spending of funds, particularly for critical aspects such as labor necessary for the project's success.

"We cant access the labour money to pay the road gungs because the system is on and off,” Gimuyi said, highlighting the system's disruptive impact on financial transactions.

City Town Clerk Ambrose Ocheng corroborated Gimuyi's account, affirming the disruptive nature of the  system on their daily operations emphasizing that it is accessible in the  morning up to 9 am, then it disappears until later in the evening when they  are closing office.

Some of the abandoned roads in Mbale City.

Ocheng  also linked the slow progress to lack of road equipment and  interruption by torrential rains.

The committee said it was dissatisfied with the accountabilities and justifications.

"They are telling us that shs370 million that was spent on materials but the roads are in very bad state," Masaba said.

The MP also  watered down Gimuyi and Ocheng's justification for delayed works saying they had ample time since the release of funds in February to address the bottlenecks.

The stakeholders have described these as delaying  tactics to evade  accountability.

Adding to the complexity, city officials find  themselves grappling with the allocation and execution of an additional shs850 million from the  central government.

With a deadline of 1.5 months looming, pressure mounts on authorities to expedite the allocation process and ensure efficient execution of the funds.

In response to mounting scrutiny, a  followup meeting has been slated for May 24, to  conduct site visits to reconcile paper reports with physical progress and to appropriate the additional funding.

This move underscores stakeholders' determination to hold officials accountable and ensure that allocated funds translate into tangible infrastructure improvements.

The engineer is also expected to account for another shs250 million worth of material for balance for the previous financial year.

Despite these efforts, stakeholders remain apprehensive that unaddressed challenges may lead to the redirection of funds back to the consolidated fund.

This apprehension reflects broader concerns about the effective utilization of public resources and underscores the urgency of addressing systemic issues plaguing the management of road funds in Mbale City.

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