President Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly highlighted the importance of railway transport.
And heeding to his message, the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) is seeking for Shs93.5bn to revamp railway services in the country.
Appearing before Parliament’s National Economy Committee today, Geoffrey Obala, Chief Civil Engineer at Uganda Railways Corporation, revealed that the COVID-19 Pandemic has heavily impacted on the railway operations, and it came at the time the Corporation was grappling with funding shortages.
Obala said that the Shs93.5Bn that is needed within six months will go towards support for both minimum repair and maintenance of assets.
Part of the funds will support operations including staff costs, furl and insurance for staff.
He added that if the money was availed, it would improve cargo volumes from 18,000 metric tons to 60,000 metric tons and eventually 120,000 metric tons.
The Corporation is seeking for Shs4.5Bn to carry out minimum repairs to the railway line from Kampala to Malaba to improve line stability, a project if carried out would help reduce transit times, reduce accidents and deliver more cargo.
The entity is also seeking for Shs1.606bn to carry out minimum repairs to locomotives and wagons to improve haulage capacity, volumes carried, transit time and reduce accidents and deliver more cargo.
To enhance fuel supplies to support initial trips, URC needs Shs1.4bn while the purchase of 8 used mainline locomotives to improve capacity would cost Shs42bn.
Additionally, the Corporation needs Shs6bn to purchase two reach stackers and Shs36bn for salaries and wages because at the moment, URC isn’t in position to pay salaries due to very low business and will also need operational support for the payroll during the first two years.
Another Shs300M is required to rehabilitate fuel tanks at Kampala and Tororo to provide additional storage capacity for fuel imports as well as enhance the goods in transit insurance respectively.
The Corporation is also seeking to carry out repairs on MV Kaava at Shs500M, hire outreach stackers to handle the loading and offloading of containers that would cost Shs500M.
Geofrey Dhamuzungu (Budiope East MP) supported URC’s request but asked URC to guarantee Parliament that the money would be utilized after complaints came to Parliament from former workers of URC over claims that some individuals swindled their pension.
“There are staff from Uganda Railways who were contributing money as pension. That one person took the money and he is still in office working with impunity,” said Dhamuzungu.
Despite seeking for Shs93.5bn, URC also told Parliament that the Corporation is yet to receive funds to a tune of Shs100bn from various Government agencies citing Uganda Land Commission that owes the entity Shs69.5bn.
Uganda National Roads Authority owes URC Shs27bn for the 8.3 acres of land taken over for Kampala flyover project.
Dhamuzungu called on fellow MPs to ensure the debts are paid.
“They are looking for Shs93bn but our same government owes them Shs100Bn. We would stand firm as a Committee and help them,” he said, noting that Ministry of Finance must ensure the Corporation is paid.
However, Syda Bbumba, the National Economy Committee Chairperson and Nakaseke North MP told URC officials to polish up their presentation, arguing that their presentation wasn’t addressing the Coronavirus pandemic and advised URC to seek for other new funding methods instead of waiting for Government to pay off its debts to the Corporation.
“I wouldn’t like to give you false hopes. I would encourage you to look for new money. You can only use it as a bargaining chip,” she said.