Works and Transport Minister, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, had a tough time explaining to legislators how his ministry had utilized more than Shs 16.8 trillion over the past five years to improve the national roads network.
According to Wamala’s statement to Parliament, Uganda has a road network of 159,529km of which, 5,528km are tarmac; a 1,371km increase from 4,157km the country had during the 2014/2015 financial year.
“As of June, all class A roads in Uganda were paved. This makes it possible for travel on the tarmac on any major border crossing which improves our connectivity with regional markets and sources of inputs,” Wamala said.
He also told Parliament that the last five years have seen increased rainfall and flooding which damages the road infrastructure in place and that with predictions that the global climate is set to change further, the roads built today must have to withstand severe weather conditions.
But his statement did not impress many MPs who raised concern over the government’s delays to work on different roads despite several pledges by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Goretti Namugga, the Mawogola South MP said that government should pay more attention to the maintenance of road equipment and buy good quality equipment for the districts.
Curthbert Abigaba Mirembe, the Kibale County MP also raised concern over the low budget for road equipment maintenance sent to districts that contribute to the continued poor road network in the country.
James Baba, the Koboko County MP urged the Ministry of Works and Transport to continuously assess the Chinese construction companies for their performance to ensure that Ugandans get value for money.
Asuman Basalirwa, the Bugiri Municipality MP said that it was incorrect to say that the Jinja-Bugiri-Busia road is completely paved.
“Take another tour of this road and make an assessment. This is a road which carries heavy traffic so it needs to be worked on better,” Basalirwa said.
Yusuf Nsibambi, the Shadow Minister of Works and Transport said that the statement on the status of roads presented by the government is not entirely true since the performance rate of many of them is still really low.
He suggested that the Minister’s statement on the status of roads in the country is referred to an Adhoc committee or the Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure committee to assess the issue of roads that has not been properly managed over the years. He noted that roads are not gifts to Ugandans but they are entitled to good roads.
Wamala acknowledged that the issues raised by the MPs are genuine and he assured the House that his Ministry would do everything possible in line with the National Development Plan- NDP III to implement road works in the country.
He also assured MPs that a Cabinet Paper on giving more business to local contractors is in the offing, and that road contracts below Shs 45 billion are now ring-fenced for local firms.
Speaker Jacob Oulanyah recommended that the committee on Physical Infrastructure has a comprehensive engagement with the Ministry of Works and Transport in relation to the Funds and come up with a report that will shape the debate.
He also guided MPs with specific challenges on roads in their constituencies to formally write to the Minister of Works and Transport so that the issues can be assessed and handled.