BY LYDIA AMUYA
Kampala, Uganda| SHIFTMEDIA| Works and Transport Minister Gen Edward Katumba Wamala has described as ‘embarrassing’ the revelation that Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) one of the dockets under his ministry was denying the public information.
Katumba who spoke at the launch of the CoST Uganda Infrastructure Transparency Initiative 3rd Assurance Report said all government departments are obliged to provide information as mandated under the Information Act.
“I am so embarrassed the UNRA that falls under my ministry is a culprit regarding failure to release information. I will ensure this stops,” said Katumba at the report launch held at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala on Wednesday.
Katumba who acts as the CoST Uganda Champion hailed CoST Uganda for spearheading the transparency issues especially regarding the monitoring of government projects. “It is such exposures that enabled government discover recently the shs24b bridge that went into thin air,” he said. He promised that he would escalate the activities of CoST Uganda to higher government authorities starting with the Prime Minister. “It is a high time we escalate what CoST Uganda is doing to higher authorities like the prime minister’s office and push it from the ministries,” he said.
He called upon Ugandans to take interest in government infrastructures by owning them. He promised government full commitment towards enhancing effective full disclosure.
The CoST Uganda Multi-Stakeholder Group Chairperson Hon. Nathan Byanyima said the release of information from especially government entities still remains a huge challenge. “It is so sad that we even found it hard to get information from government bodies like UNRA. But nonetheless, we are here to demystify the myth that infrastructure in Uganda belongs to the civil engineers,” said Byanyima.
He said the 3rd Assurance process commenced in Assurance process started in April 2019 with a training and commissioning workshop between the Assurance team, the selected procuring and disposing entities (PDEs), oversight bodies and the Multi – Stakeholders Group; the relevance of such workshops is to introduce COST to the entities and to reduce the delays in data retrieval especially reactive disclosure.
The 3rd Assurance report reveals the need for Procuring and Disposing Entities to use existing disclosure platforms to proactively disclose information the public needs to know.
He noted that the disclosed information and the field appreciation visits conducted by the Assurance Team have consistently revealed the need for full disclosure as per COST Infrastructure Data.
“Analysis may sometimes be complex without complete and accurate data being disclosed, timely disclosure also allows for timely publication of finings and recommendation for line authorities to take action on projects,” he said.
The Senior Regional Manager Africa CoST International Gilbert Sendugwa said the 3rd Assurance Report was conducted in the Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. Ministry of Water and Environment and the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA).
The Report Findings
The 3rd assurance report process focused on 13 projects from five (5) procuring entities recommended by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA).
The Assurance process was spread through the sectors of Education, Water and Environment, Health, Energy, Roads, Buildings, and Bridges.
The 13 projects subjected to the CoST Assurance process are worth UGX 246.3 billion (USD$74 million).
The key findings from the report indicated that all the assured projects experienced low levels of disclosure, cost and time overruns mainly attributed to scope changes, lack of documentation and data retrieval systems.
The report also reported a low level of citizens and other stakeholder engagements.
It showed that there was lack of ownership of projects by public and projects still termed to belong to the government.