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Physical infrastructure committee suspends public hearings over funds

FILE PHOTO: Hon Kafeero Ssekitoleko, Chairperson Physical Infrastructure Committee

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s committee on the physical infrastructure has suspended regional public hearings on the Roads Amendment Bill due to lack of funds.

The Bill seeks to provide for the declaration, control and protection of road reserves on public roads, to introduce express penalties and to reform laws on development, management, and maintenance of public roads.

The Vice Chairperson of the Committee Wilson Kumama who is also the Bbaale County MP (Kayunga district), says that the committee had initially agreed to conduct public hearings in the regions of Western, Northern, Central, Eastern and Southern Uganda regarding the Bill’s objective to expand road reserves from the current 15 meters to 40 meters on both sides of the road.

However, two months later, the regional public hearings have not been conducted.

Although on average, the committee is allocated about 1 billion shillings a year to carry out its activities, Kumama says that his committee has been constrained to conduct wider consultations on the Roads Bill because of funds.

If each trip would require 80 million shillings for the committee members and support staff, it would mean the regional consultations would cost about 400 million shillings, which Kumama says the committee lacks.

The 400 million shillings covers per diem and other allowances for the MPs and staff plus refreshments for witnesses and venue fees.

Besides financial constraints, Kumama says the committee has faced immense pressure to table its report on the Bill because it has exceeded the 45 days rule for handling bills as well as the extra time granted by the Speaker.

Kumama was responding to complaints from four committee members led by Busongora North County MP, William Nzoghu on their dissatisfaction with the scrutiny on the Bill, particularly, on the proposal to increase the road reserve width from the current 15 metres to 40 metres on either side of the road.

Nzoghu and three other MPs, Erute South MP Jonathan Odur, Julius Ochen of Kapelebyong and West Budama North MP, Othieno Okoth faulted the committee leadership for not seeking views from a wider section of the public.

Nzoghu, who is also the shadow minister for works and transport, adds that majority of Ugandans owning plots at the roadside do not have land measuring 40 square metres and therefore most people will lose their land plus those plots next and hence become landless.   He argues that the minister for works has been given immense powers to declare road reserves and could facilitate compulsory land acquisition.

Odur, Ochen and Okoth believe that since the committee has failed to conduct the regional public hearings, the Parliamentary Commission should facilitate every MP to consult his or her constituency about the Bill.

They are now considering the option of writing a minority report on the Roads Amendment Bill, 2018.   Odur says so far ten committee members have indicated opposition to the proposal on road reserves.

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