Parliamentarians across the political divide have criticized Government over failure to make good of its manifesto pledge to ensure that the country has an improved road network.
They said many of the major roads especially in the countrysides have been neglected which makes access to markets for sale of produce impossible, inadvertently affecting economic growth.
“When I looked at the list of roads to be built, I was disappointed that the 120km stretch from Nebbi through Zombo to Vura district which is strategic for security and economic reasons is missing. This road is very bad, you can’t use it especially when it rains and it has been like that since 1996 yet this road goes through the food basket of Westnile and Northern Uganda,” said Ora County MP Lawrence Biyaka.
Speaker Jacob Oulanyah said describing the state of the aforementioned road as bad was polite and an understatement because the reality is that the said road is in a terrible shape and would be high on the list of those identified for tarmacking in the subsequent financial year.
Hilariously narrating how even pedestrians get stuck on the road when it rains, Oulanyah said, “This road is one of those major roads that are a business traction line to the Democratic Republic of Congo but when it rains, for three days there is no movement.”
The MPs were rebutting a statement made by the Minister for Works and Transport, Gen. Katumba Wamala on the state of roads in Uganda during a plenary session on October 20, 2021.
Shadow works minister and Mawokota South MP, Yusuf Nsibambi said whereas Katumba had given the state of roads a clean bill of health, “a review of documents from the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) says otherwise and we need to study this matter more deeply.”
He added that for some of the roads highlighted by Katumba as works in progress, construction had not yet started and yet the funding had already been dispatched.
Nsibambi called for an ad-hoc committee or the Committee on Infrastructure to review the Minister’s statement and make an actual assessment of the roads in the country because Ugandans are entitled to good roads.
“A committee should review this report because for years the Ministry has not been delivering. You are not giving Ugandans gifts. Ugandans are entitled to good roads,” he said.
In response, Katumba acknowledged that issues raised by MPs were indeed genuine and that the Ministry was doing everything in its power with the limited resources available to improve the roads in the country.
“The Ministry is guided by the National Development Plan III (NDPIII) and the manifesto of the NRM. Works are done in line with the NDPIII and Members shouldn’t fret, if their roads aren’t worked on right now, there are more development plans in the pipeline,” he said.
The MPs demanded that the Minister explains the procedure for selecting which roads to prioritize for tarmacking.
To them, the roads sector affects all other aspects of the economy such as security, and facilitates trade and tourism.
Other MPs rose to express their displeasure with the Government for delaying to work on their roads even after repeated pledges by the President.
They said their people voted for MRM overwhelmingly and really thought that this time round their roads would be built.
Otuke County MP, Paul Omara said Otuke overwhelmingly voted for the President on grounds that this time they would have a tarmacked road that passes through their district that would enable them promote economic development.
He tasked the Minister to explain the status of the 187km road from Lira-Kotido Road which was on the manifesto of the president.
“The president has been pledging for so many years but nothing has been done on our road. What did our road do to you? What did the people of Bukomansimbi do to you?” Kayemba Geofrey (Bukomansimbi South MP) wondered.
Some MPs said most of their roads have been washed away by the rains and in some areas, the conditions are bad that they have resulted in the loss of lives of their people.
On seeing that majority of the House members were rising to inform of the challenges with their roads, the Speaker guided that they all formally write to the Minister of works so that he can come up with a report on how they are going to be handled.
Eng. Abigaba Mirembe (Kibale County MP), asked the Minister to ensure that they always have adequate funding for work especially for maintenance of equipment because he had noted that they usually get limited funding for it which ends up frustrating works and the Ministry.
The minister was also advised by James Baba Boiliba (Koboko County MP) to continuously assess the construction companies for their performance to ensure that they do good and credible work on the roads.