By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA- Everybody from a pedestrian, cyclists, motorists are either jeering or writhing in pain due to the terrible roads in Kampala.
With the onset of rains, the situation has only worsened. Those on foot and on boda boda have to face the pain of getting dirty when water from the deep pot holes get splashed onto them.
But why are the roads in such pathetic conditions, yet the road sector is the second-highest funded in the national budget, after Defence? Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) was allocated Shs4 trillion in the 2019/20 financial year for road infrastructure. But surprisingly, the latest Auditor General’s report revealed that out of the Shs2.6 trillion that was approved out of the budgeted Shs4 trillion, projects worth Shs398.2b were not implemented.
Auditor General John Muwanga observed that the unspent funds were returned to the Consolidated Fund in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act requirements.
Funds are being returned yet roads are in bad shape and Ugandans are painfully spending hours in hectic jams, riddled with deep potholes.
The Shs1.8 billion that UNRA was supposed to recover as liquidated damages from China Railway No3 Engineering Group for failure to complete the rehabilitation of Hima – Katunguru Road within the contract time would be have been channelled elsewhere for road maintenance.
Findings indicate that a section of the 60km road was supposed to be completed by September 22, 2019, but was completed two months late, which warranted recovery of liquidated damages from the contractor.
That notwithstanding, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) headed by Dorothy Kitaka has under the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP 2) $183.7 million as funds for enhancing infrastructure and institutional capacity of Kampala Capital City Authority.
Experts have noted that most of the 600km Kampala roads need widening, and working on the drainage systems.
According to Dr Grace Adongo the Director Water Resources Management at the Ministry of Water and Environment, a total of 600 tons of plastics is disposed of in the drainage systems daily in Kampala that clogs the system leading to flooding whenever it rains.
It is part of this US$183.7 that KCCA has as funding from the World Bank and GOU to address the drainage challenges.
But surprisingly since five- year KIIDP 2 was launched in 2015, Kampala roads still flood whenever there is a slight downpour.
Not all has been lost under the KIIDP 2 because some 75km of roads in the city have been widened, others upgraded with traffic light junctions like in Fairway, Bakuli, Nakulabye, Kira Road, Kitgum House and Nakawa among others. Much KCCA has also constructed dual carriage roads and upgraded 77km gravel roads into tarmac, the main issue of drainage remains a hard paper for KCCA and UNRA.
In our survey, we noted that channel that burst whenever it rains such as Lubigi , Kinawataka, Kansanga, Gaba and Nalukolongo need immediate attention to address. According to Jude Byansi the manager Water and Sanitation at KCCA, poor solid waste management has contributed to the road and drainage channel deterioration. Areas such as Banda Kyambogo, Shoprite Lugogo, Clock Tower, Mukwano Road, Mulago Kubiri and industrial areas get flooded halting traffic due to bad clogged drainage system.
The Cost of Bad Roads
The cost of bad roads is unbearable. Apart from the time that motorists spend during peak hours during traffic congestion, government loses millions due to lost revenue caused by low productivity.
According to Dr Andrew Naimanya, the Ag Executive Director Uganda Road Fund each dollar ($1) not spent on road maintenance, the cost to the motorists is three-fold ($3). About $800m is lost annually in vehicle maintenance. Close to $1.5m a day is lost in travel time and traffic delays while another to $100 to $200m is lost by businesses and damage to property across the city each year.
Naimanya said in a recent interview that the Uganda Road Fund need at least shs1.2 trillion to fix the dilapidated roads countrywide.
The Executive Director KCCA Dorothy Kitaka said her department spends close to Shs30b each year for road maintenance works, a figure she says is not sufficient. Currently, over 75 per cent of the 600km of paved roads in Kampala needs a total overhaul.
What needs to be done
Just like Uganda Road Fund ED Dr Naimanya and KCCA’s Kitaka noted, UNRA Executive Director Allen Catherine Kagina says funds are needed for road maintenance. “Most roads have a span (life) of about 15 years, but it is always advisable to start revamping them when they reach the 7- 9th year so that you give it service life. After that they start to depreciate getting riddled with deep holes that widen with floods,” she said,
Kagina advised that government should consider increasing funds for road maintenance. She highlighted that the Lira Corner Kamdini (72km) road that needs total construction because it was not maintained when its span had expired. “You must keep what you have,” said Kagina.
She said that most of the roads in Kampala may not just need patching and pothole repairs, but perhaps regrading and gravelling.
Our chats with local contractors revealed that the issue of corruption and demands for kickbacks before contracts are awarded needs to be addressed. “If I am to work on an 8 km road that will last 15 years if the officials demand a kickback, I will work basing on the balance. So layers won’t even last for three years,” said a leading road contractor.
KCCA Executive Director is optimistic that the bad road will soon be sorted with funding of $260m from the African Development Bank.
Under the second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP 2) financed by the government and the World Bank, KCCA is completing works on Kulambiro Ring Road, Najeera Link and Tuuba-Kyanja road; Kabuusu-Bunamwaya-Lweza; John Babiiha road (Acacia Avenue), Ntinda-Nakawa road and Lukuli road.