UNRA need at least Shs6trillion in the next three years
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Allen Kagina, the Executive Director at the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) seems to be used to appointments. This was evident during her first press briefing on Feb.25 since she was re-appointed as ED for a second five-year term.
Kagina, as usual, said a lot has been done and more will be done in the coming month or years in line with roads and ferries development.
“UNRA is currently upgrading 23 road projects (new construction and upgrading from gravel to paved bituminous standards) covering a total distance of 1,581km, Kagina said.
“This represents over 50% achievement of the annual physical performance target of 400km equivalent in the half year period.”
Kagina and the 1500-strong team she oversees at UNRA have set their sights on upcoming projects in the national road network program that totals 1,715km.
“This will need Shs6.5trillion over a period of three years,” said Patrick Muleme, the UNRA Head of Design and Network Planning. This means that UNRA will require an additional funding to meet its budget, especially with regard to project’s implementations.
In the current financial year, for instance, UNRA was allocated Shs4.2trillion. However, this money is also used to meet the administration expenses as well as land compensations, complicating the works of the agency.
Land acquisition headache
UNRA needs about Shs400billion this financial year to settle compensation issues. However, this money is currently unavailable yet more projects are coming onboard meaning that UNRA will have to work harder on a leaner budget.
By the end of FY 2018/2019, UNRA had a debt of Shs474billion. In addition, the ongoing projects under Government of Uganda development have a deficit of Shs500billion, Kagina said last year.
She added, “This means that the allocated budget to the 2019/20 work plan is short by approximately Shs980billion.”
Of the Shs4.2trillion, Shs71billion is for wages of the over 1500 staff employed by UNRA.
There has been persistent criticism towards UNRA on why it procures contractors before obtaining right of way, which leads to delays and financial penalties. UNRA Director of Roads and Bridges, Eng. Sam Muhoozi attributed this to cash constraints.
“We run one budget which is the same for land acquisition, road maintenance, paying for salaries; which is appropriated at once and we cannot commit on only one activity,” Muhoozi said.
“Procurement moves faster than acquisition of land, we are in court sometimes,” he added. Muhoozi said some contractors are so fast and UNRA cannot stop them from working before obtaining right of way.
Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, and the Secretary to the Treasury is usually bombarded by several demands to release money from different government agencies, ministries and departments and has a tough time to gauge which one is a bigger priority.
UNRA, overseer of government’s infrastructure agenda, ordinarily would get a priority but compensation challenges are taking a toll.