KCCA boss: Comparing unit cost of Kampala city road works to Soroti is unreasonable

KCCA deputy executive director David Luyimbazi

KCCA deputy executive director David Luyimbazi

KAMPALA – The Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) has explained the dynamics surrounding road construction in Kampala city, factors that experts say are pushing the cost of road works higher compared to other areas in the country.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) extended a $288 billion loan facility to construct roads and drainage systems in the city under the Kampala City Roads Rehabilitation Project (KCRRP) whose civil works now stand at 8%, according to Eng David Luyimbazi, the deputy executive director of KCCA.

This was revealed during an interface between the Kampala Capital City Authority technical officials and Members of Parliament on the Physical Infrastructure Committee.  Eng. Luyimbazi who led city’s technical team presented the current works on Lot 1 of the implementation of the rehabilitation works that started on December 30, 2022, as standing at 8 percent. The works are being carried out by China Railway Number 5 at a cost of UGX149 billion.

Debate ensued in the Committee when the KCCA team reported that Lot 2 of the project was handed to another Chinese company at a contract sum of UGX138.5bn. Legislators questioned the unit costs of the roads in Kampala compared to other cities around the country.

Committee Chairperson Dan Kimosho (Kazo County) wondered why the unit cost per kilometer of road works in Kampala is UGX10bn if the amount of money for LOT 1 is equated to the 14km that are being rehabilitated under the AfDB funded project. “These are not extraordinary roads because when you are installing streetlights and putting drainage, you are not going to dig underground to make it this expensive,” said Kimosho.

Soroti City West Division legislator, Jonathan Ebwalu weighed in on the unit cost per kilometer in Kampala saying it is higher than what has been the cost per kilometer on the roads being constructed in Soroti under the Uganda Support to Municipalities Infrastructure Development (USMID) a World Bank funded project.

Under USMID in Soroti city the unit cost is UGX2.3bn per kilometer and this is also with drainage and street lighting. But for KCCA, the cost per kilometer is four times higher than other cities and some of the roads in these cities are far better than those in Kampala”,  said Ebwalu.

In response, Eng. Luyimbazi, a former Director for Planning at the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) defended the cost of the roads in Kampala saying that the conditions faced by contractors are different from those in other parts of the country.

He added that the reason the country does not have a uniform unit cost per kilometer for all the roads being constructed is because the infrastructure being put up in Kampala is not the same as is elsewhere. “The cost of a road depends on the input. We must always compare like with like. I don’t know what road is being constructed in Soroti but for us here, Lot 2 is dual carriage, and you cannot compare it with a single carriage,” said Eng Luyimbazi.

Pinned further, he explained that the Kampala roads under rehabilitation have civilized junctions and streetlights in their designs which makes it costlier than roads elsewhere.

“The land value in Kampala is very high, therefore, you cannot compare the value of murrum with Soroti. Here to get a rock, you [must] go very far which makes it very expensive to transport to the construction sites” he argued.

Other road costs

Legislators also quizzed the KCCA team on the billions of Shillings being spent on contractors hired to relocate public utilities like water lines, electricity lines and telecommunications lines in areas where the current projects are being implemented.

The committee was told that the early planners of the city did not leave enough room for road infrastructure expansion, and if current projects had compensation components, it would have been expensive for KCCA to carry out new developments.

“Most of the roads are built on land that is not ours. The land in Kampala is very expensive because compensation can be beyond the cost of the roads. We have voluntary land contributions from people adjacent to the roads”, Eng Luyimbazi explained.

He said that the land acquisition budget of UGX11bn in the project is meant for the acquisition of land for lorry parks and bus depots around the city.

Concerning the procurements for the different roads under the five lots being funded by the AfDB loan, the Committee directed KCCA to avail the evaluation reports for all the bidders to appreciate the origin of variations in the estimated costs and the contracted costs.

A case in point is lot 1 where the Engineer’s estimation was UGX179.15bn but the contract was awarded at UGX149.4bn while for lot 2, the contract was awarded at UGX138.5bn against the estimated cost of UGX149.3bn.

Luyimbazi said the project was tendered through open international bidding processes, noting that prices were determined by market forces.

“The market determines what the lowest bidder is but not that KCCA fixes the prices,” Luyimbazi said.

He said the same bidders who worked in Soroti and other USMID projects bided for the Kampala road works but were not the lowest.

“The one they say quoted very low prices in Soroti City project quoted more than the 10 billion that was quoted by the winning bidder Kampala. That reflects something different between Soroti y and Kampala,” he said.

The KCCA boss said that because of the need to reduce disruption to economic activities in the city, contractors are required to work at night.

“No road closures will be permitted. That means the contractors have to have infrastructure and staff that enables them to work at night.”

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