The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) was established in 2006 by the Parliamentary enactment of the Uganda National Roads Authority Act under the Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT). Its establishment came with the responsibility of maintaining, managing and developing the National Road network. In addition, the Authority is also mandated to render advisory services to Government and for related matters concerning National Roads.
You and I cannot deny that this agency has delivered as we wanted, however, most of it’s (UNRA) challenges are external. The agency little control over most barriers (procurement process delays, cost of capital so high cost of projects, presidential directives that interrupt the strategic plan, etc.. ) in the Uganda we live in.
However, merging UNRA with the ministry of Works and Transport is going to make matters worse. This kind of arrangement will create another kind of bureaucracy in the execution of projects (Corporate governance versus Government Bureaucracy) which will take us 20 years back. Cost and duration of project are something UNRA is currently experienced and is finding the best solutions for.
I believe UNRA as an agency has no problem save for external interference in how it operates. Some of these are the PPDA act, different directives from the president to issue particular contracts, etc. If we say that it has failed, its failure is not on its own but it comes from those particular external forces.
However, the ministry has a lot of bureaucracy which means finalising a single project will take several approvals yet in UNRA, it’s cooperating governance, whereby a decision is made by the top management and the action is taken up immediately.
If it’s merged, the road sector going to become worse because the ministry answers directly to the cabinet and the cabinet bring everything to Parliament which is full of politics where proposals will be passed without clear assessment since the majority of the House supports it.
Secondly, it’s prudent to apportion the blame where it’s due because UNRA as an agency has interference with presidential orders which at times make it hard for them to meet their yearly targets. Because with these pre-financing projects, they always have planned their roads since they have their own design offices.
Unfortunately, when the president comes in and orders them (UNRA) to give contracts to so and so companies, it affects their plans because you may find when the given road was not in their year plan. Therefore they will have to outsource for other experts to design plans for those particular roads immediately which makes UNRA’s designs office redundant.
Because of such directives, the office becomes confused about the designs. So hiring this one also becomes yet we have in-house engineers who can do such designs in case such directives came within the agency’s year plan.
The biggest problem with Uganda’s road construction is cost, it’s so exorbitant, and we should not put this on UNRA, for example, some road contractors are to be paid after one year now one year has passed, loans have not been presented by Ministry of Finance yet the money for the contractor is accumulating interest.
Hon Sebamala is the the Member of Parliament for Bukoto Central in Masaka District.