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Ghosts! Parliament Blocks Funding For 15 Oil Roads

The construction of 15 oil roads in the Albertine Graben ahead of oil production anticipated in 2020 hangs in balance following Parliament’s refusal to okay funding for what has been termed as ‘ghost roads’, Business Focus reveals.

According to the final Budget Framework Paper for 2017/18, the government f Uganda wanted to increase funding to Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to cater for the construction of 15 oil roads.

The Parliamentary Budget Committee through its Chairperson, Amos Lugolobi recently learnt that Government wanted to increase funding to UNRA by Shs1.122trn to cater for the above roads.

However, MPs have rejected the proposal, noting that UNRA has no capacity to construct all the 15 roads in one financial year.

“The additional allocation of Shs1.122trn to UNRA for 2017/18 is excessive given the usual absorption challenges associated with lengthy procurement process in the country,” MPs said.

The lawmakers observed that out of the proposed 15 roads, only two roads were suitable to have their procurement processes kick off in the next budget.

“Apart from the two roads; Hoima-Butyaba-Wanseko and Lusalirwa-Nkonge-Ssembabule, the rest neither had feasibility studies nor the detailed designs completed,” the Lugolobi report noted in part.

Inflated?

The report by the Parliamentary Budget Committee further put the cost estimates on the said roads into question.

The MPs gave an example of Hoima-Butyaba-Wanseko road in which UNRA put Shs5.934bn per kilometre constructed, a figure MPs argue that is far above the average cost.

Lawmakers want UNRA to explain this purported inflated cost.

The Committee asked Government to review the projected allocation to UNRA for 2017/18 and come up with a realistic amount which will be absorbed under the oil roads, arguing that if this is achieved, it will be critical at freeing up resources for other constrained sectors.

“In future, Government should avoid raising people’s expectations by indicating roads to be constructed in a budget, when there is no capacity to do so. Some roads appear in the budget and after disappear without Government’s explanation,” the committee report warns the Executive.

The MPs cited out roads that have appeared in budget for several years, but have never seen light of the day.

Some of these roads include Mukono-Namugongo-Kira-Kasangati-Matugga-Wakiso-Mpigi road and Busabaala ring road.

Responding to the report on Wednesday, David Bahati, the State Minister for Planning failed to table concrete steps of actions taken to address the concerns raised on the ghost roads.

The minister only noted that Government has made a strategic decision to ensure oil production by 2020.

Bahati called on Parliament to approve the money, arguing that the construction of the roads will be critical at creating more roads and generate approximately US2M annually to finance the country’s priority projects.

“UNRA is already undertaking preliminary work to ensure that all the necessary processes are undertaken to ensure the roads are ready for implementation. We have already provided some funds to embark on the feasibility studies,” he noted.

He pointed out that pre-qualification of contractors has been completed and bid invitation would be concluded on 2nd May 2017.

According to government, there is no need for Parliament to stall this project because bid evaluation is projected to be held on 30th June 2017, while signing of the road contracts will be done on 30th July 2017 after the funding increment to UNRA has been approved.

Bahati added that Uganda risks losing much if the money isn’t approved because Shs854.9bn will come from external funding through China Exim Bank, while Shs267.7bn will come through domestic sources.

The Minister however failed to give a breakdown on the cost of each Kilometre of the road to be constructed.

The Mps stuck to their guns, noting that they will need time to scrutinize the documents the minister tabled before giving their final decision.

 

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