How UNRA survived being merged with Ministry of Works

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How UNRA survived being merged with Ministry of Works
Soroti-Akasim road constructed by UNRA

Uganda boasts of a total of over 6,000km of paved roads, others implemented under different programs like Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) and a network of well maintained gravel roads connecting us to the scenic corners of Uganda but also serve as vital arteries connecting to the economic hubs of our country.

However, critics say that Uganda boasting of 6,000km of paved road since independence in 1962 is a shame . Of the 6,000km 4,793km have been added since 1986, an average of 129km per year.

Sharp comparisons can be made with countries as such as Namibia and Kenya.

Namibia added 6,000km of paved roads since independence in 1990.

Why boast of mediocrity? Christopher Buni, a social critic, asked on his X account.

In his response on the same post Allan Ssempebwa, the UNRA spokesperson, said comparisons can be valuable, but have limitations too.

It is true for example that our journey to economic growth and development faced significant challenges due to the lack of peace/security (stability) during the initial yrs of our post-colonial era, lasting until the 1980s and 1990s.

Over the past 16 years, the conflict has inflicted a financial toll of at least$1.33 billion on Uganda, equivalent to 3 percent of the national GDP during that period.

Imagine we were moving at the same pace with the Namibia?

The national network managed by UNRA spans 21,200km, with over 30 percent of it currently paved.

The road network managed by the Kenyan agency for roads is slightly longer at 21,583km, of which 56 percent is already paved.

Both UNRA and the Kenyan roads agency have plans to increase the amount of their respective paved roads.

The Kenyan roads agency aims to add at least 1,183km of paved roads by 2027, while UNRA plans to add at least 2,055.1km within the same time frame.

Worth noting that of these, UNRA has already begun construction on 1,371.1km of roads and an additional 684km of new projects are expected to commence during this financial year.

If statistics were readily available for other entities responsible for managing urban and district roads, it is possible that the total length of paved roads in Uganda would be even higher, although I doubt this should be the centre of debate.

The debate could explore general public concerns about land acquisition and compensation, causes of project delays, cost drivers in road construction.

I appreciate your input, enthusiasm and engagement to this subject! The demand for public services is a right; in fact, it’s a shared duty, ours in particular is to provide that needed attention and accountability.

To draw meaningful conclusions, it is crucial to compare similar situations& context!

I acknowledge we have some gaps to close, can do even better, but not to ignore the progress attained, connecting millions of Ugandans to numerous opportunities.

The Jinja-Iganga Highway at Kakira

 

Just while this debate continued on X , the Ugandan Maximum body politic ,Parliament discussed mergers particularly Uganda National Roads Authority, being taken back to the mother ministry, the Min of works

On the floor of Parliament, Transport and works Minister General Edward Katumba Wamala said that “abolishing of UNRA will see Gov’t save Shs39 billion monthly in wages, paid to the current bloated human resource structure of the Authority, and have this money used to construct roads in order to relieve Ugandans of potholes.”

Members of Parliament furiously defended the authority saying that it has done way better than many government agencies including the Ministry of Works itself.

The Physical Infrastructure Committee also defended UNRA purported bloated wage bill noting that one of the objectives for the creation of the Authority with attractive remuneration was because the Ministry had failed to attract highly skilled staff due to low salaries.

“The same Ministry cannot at this point be indicating that attractive remuneration offered by UNRA is a problem. Furthermore, the issue of salary disparities is not only limited to UNRA and it cuts across the entire Public Service,” Dan Kimosho said.

Gen Katumba had also called on MPs to back Gov't proposal to take the agency back to the Ministry saying such a move would relieve Government on the financial drain of its resources and wasteful and burdened wasteful expenditure at UNRA.

"To restructure and re-organize these agencies and departments of Government, we want to eliminate bloated structures and functional ambiguities in Government," Katumba said.

"Agencies operate bloated structures which aren’t aligned to the mandates and are a drain to the treasury, thus defeating one of the objectives of cost cutting. Our country is faced with a situation where we must be extremely frugal and already, we hear cries of reforms in every sector of this country," Katumba added.

However, the Physical Infrastructure Committee also rejected this argument that citing the Shs75 billion UNRA collected in toll revenues from the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway which is deposited into the Consolidated Fund after operational and maintenance costs have been catered for and this revenue is expected to increase upon the completion of Busega-Mpigi Expressway.

In a jiffy, MPs rejected plans by Gov’t to abolish Uganda National Roads Authority prompting General Wamala to ask for more time to table fresh amendments to the Uganda National Roads Authority Amendment Bill 2024.

Reports of bribery to MPs to defend some agencies remain on the horizon as some MPs have told us under the strict condition of anonymity that they were given up to $500 to defend some agencies like National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA)

Since 2006 when UNRA was created, they have only added 3,238km of tarmac, an average of about 202km per year out of the 6000km added tarmac since 1986.

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