Following a presidential directive, government has allocated each district and municipality Shs1 billion for maintenance of roads outside the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) jurisdiction.
This was revealed in the report of the Physical Infrastructure Committee on the policy statement of the Ministry of Works and Transport for 2023/2024 financial year.
The report was presented by the Committee Chairperson, Hon. David Karubanga on Thursday, 20 April 2023.
The allocation was welcomed by Members of Parliament who said they have often shouldered the burden of road maintenance.
“The people of Kaberamaido will always remember this Parliament for this money; we have been getting so little for the 300KM in the district,” Hon. Alfred Edakasi (NRM, Kaberamaido County) said.
MPs from mountainous constituencies hailed the allocation noting that their roads are continuously washed away during rainy seasons.
“Some of us come from areas with few kilometres of roads covered by UNRA; we rely on the little funds given to local governments for maintaining the roads, and when rains come, the roads in the hilly areas are impassable,” said Hon. Sarah Netalisire (NRM, Namisindwa District).
The Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa clarified that the funds are not meant for rehabilitation of the tarmac roads but for maintaining the non-tarmacked ones which are the majority in rural areas.
“Our biggest problem is maintenance of our small roads; that is what we are appropriating for. Like in my constituency, I don’t have anything to rehabilitate, we only have our small roads that we need to maintain,” Tayebwa said.
Tayebwa directed that the funds be disbursed to local governments through the Uganda Road Fund, the legal entity mandated with supervision and monitoring of roads under local governments.
He called on legislators to keenly supervise the utilization of the funds saying it is possible for districts to reallocate them to other areas of their priority.
“What this means is that you must attend the roads committees in your districts, otherwise that money will be diverted to allowances and other priorities of the district,” said Tayebwa.
Legislators from new districts complained that the proposed budget has neglected road construction in their local governments saying they are under pressure from constituents.
“In Kalungu District, we have one tarmac road of one kilometre that goes to the church built by an individual. When shall districts with no single tarmac get at least one road? Let at least one of the main roads in the districts be tarmacked in the next financial year,” Hon. Joseph Ssewungu (NUP, Kalungu West County) said.
MPs were also concerned that road construction equipment were left out in the budget, saying some districts especially the new ones may not utilize the Shs 1 billion.
“Soroti City nearly returned all its roads money last year because we had to wait for Soroti District to first finish grading its roads before we could be given the machinery to work on ours,” said Hon. Jonathan Ebwalu (Indep., Soroti West Division).
The State Minister for Works, Hon. Musa Ecweru said the 2023/2024 roads budget is largely focusing on maintenance as directed by the President.
He however, noted that the Cabinet holds the reservation to select a few special road construction projects that could still be worked on in the new financial year.
Ecweru said the Works Ministry needs Shs27 billion to be able to tarmac roads in the new districts