By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
The delayed maintenance of the Kampala-Jinja highway has irked lawmakers, who have now questioned the competence of Energo Projekt, a company contracted by government to undertake civil works.
Parliament approved a budget of Shs82 billion for Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to supervise the maintenance of the 72 kilometre road with works expected to last 12 months.
Members of Parliament on the Committee on Government Assurances met UNRA officials led by the Executive Director, Allen Kagina who was accompanied by officials from Energo Projekt to get a progress report on the road works on Friday, 24 March 2023.
Committee Chairperson, Betty Nambooze expressed disappointment with the speed of the road works which started in 2021 saying that it has taken the contractor one year to carry out works on one kilometre from Kigunga to Mukono.
“It has become a nightmare to use Kampala-Jinja road. The residents there are economically losing out. Rentals are empty because no one wants to stay in Mukono; parents have given up on schools along Mukono-Jinja road because of heavy traffic,” she said.
Nambooze wondered why UNRA contracted Energo Projekt even after it was blacklisted by the World Bank in 2012.
“The company [Energo Projekt] was suspended over fraud and yet UNRA entrusted the same company with a road that is used by four countries. Could this be the reason there are delays in the road works?” said Nambooze.
She tasked UNRA leadership to provide a due diligence report on Energo Projekt to ascertain its capacity to undertake maintenance of the Kampala-Jinja highway.
“What has this company done to redeem itself from the consequences of their behaviour and that, may be what we are seeing right now is not as a result of their past mistake,” Nambooze said.
Kagina said that in principle, companies get blacklisted for various reasons but there is a period of suspension.
“In this incidence, if I heard you correctly, they were blacklisted in 2012 for a period of two and a half years and by 2015, that suspension would have been lifted and once it is lifted, you are free to do any job. However, this project was signed in 2021,” said Kagina.
This prompted Ochero County MP, Julius Emigu to ask Kagina if there was no company that was competent to carry out the maintenance works, apart from Energo Projekt.
“Is the ED comfortable that there is no problem in the company undertaking projects after it was blacklisted and how did it win other companies that were not blacklisted?” said Emigu.
Kagina asked for more time to inquire into the matter saying that she was not aware of the company being blacklisted.
“We have just got this information from you and I request the committee to give us more time,” she said.
Kagina who also requested for an extension of six months to ensure maintenance works are complete by December 2023, blamed delays on the supressed budget saying that majority of the maintenance road works were affected.
“The development budget where road maintenance works fall under was cut by 42 per cent in 2021/2022. This affected payment of contractors which slowed down work,” said Kagina.
She added that the feature of the road, involving heavy traffic also has made it difficult for works to be undertaken.
“We are dealing with a road with one of the heaviest traffic. This traffic stems from access roads. The traffic goes on until mid-night and starts as early as 5:00 am. This has forced the contractor to work for fewer hours,” she added.
Engineer Charles Naito, UNRA’s Head of rehabilitation added that works further stalled due to discoveries of the need to reconstruct some sections of the road.
“The scope of the work was maintenance from Mukono to Jinja but the contractor identified one spot in Mabira which will be reconstructed,” said Naita.
Luke Kyobe (NRM, Luuka North County) urged UNRA to ensure immediate maintenance works are done on the Gayaza-Kalagi road, saying that there is now heavy traffic as a result of the ongoing works on the Kampala-Jinja highway.
“The Gayaza-Kalagi road is also getting worse and if not maintained, Jinja will be cut off from Kampala,” he said.
The Kampala-Jinja road is a major transit route into the Capital City of the country and is also used by heavy trucks with goods from Mombasa to Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
SOURCE: Parliament Media