The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has revealed that Uganda could fail to repay the loan from Exim Bank of China that was used to finance the construction of the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway if Parliament doesn’t expedite the passing of the Roads Bill 2018 into law.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Physical Infrastructure to present the 2019/2020 Ministerial policy statement, Mary Kutesa, the Director Legal Services UNRA said that although Uganda is meant to start the refinancing the loan in May 2019, the timelines are being hampered by absence of laws governing road tolls whose revenues are going to be used to pay the multi-billion loan.
She explained that for UNRA to enforce payment of toll fees, a law is needed and that has been provided for in the Roads Bill 2018 that is before the Committee.
“We are supposed to be paying the loan on [Kampala]-Entebbe Expressway beginning 22nd May 2019 and we don’t have the law to start paying on the road tolls. We have an escrow account with Exim Bank China; whichever money we collect, it goes into financing the loan but we aren’t able to pay anything,” Kutesa said.
UNRA awarded contract for the construction of Kampala-Entebbe Expressway to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) at USD476M and of this amount, approximately USD350M was the loan from the Exim Bank of China payable at 2% annual interest.
Section 6 of the Bill seeks for the Declaration of toll road which states that; The Minister may, in consultation with the Minister responsible for finance and the relevant road authority, by statutory instrument, declare any road, group of roads or a portion of a road as a toll road for purposes of this Act.
The Bill highlights that the development, operation, management and maintenance of toll roads shall be supported by use of appropriate technologies including; Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Electronic Toll Collections (ETC), Asset Management Systems (AMS), promotion of Interoperability of Toll systems and any other system approved by the Minister.
The Bill further stipulates that the driver of a vehicle using a toll road shall be responsible for paying the road toll. (2) The following vehicles are exempted from paying road tolls that include emergency vehicles of the fire brigade and ambulances, the Presidential convoy and vehicles belonging to the military, police and other security forces and these are exempted from the fees if they are on emergency duty.
The Legislation also spells out offences relating to road tolls where a person who drives a vehicle through a toll station, except by a route designated for the passage of the vehicle also refuses to stop a vehicle at a toll station to pay a toll or fraudulently or forcibly drives a vehicle through a toll station without paying a toll, commits an offence.
Upon conviction, the culprit would pay a fine not exceeding one thousand currency points which is equivalent to Shs20M or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.
The legislation also spells that a person who levies or collects illegal tolls commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one thousand currency points equivalent to Shs20M or imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both.