PHOTO: UNRA ED Ms. Allen Kagina inspecting roads & bridges affected by floods in the Kasese area. She was accompanied by a technical team comprising of hydrologists & engineers in road development & maintenance specialist areas
ON 20th September 2021, I led a group of youths who included Zahid Sempala (publicity poor youth), Ssali Babu (legal poor youth) and others, to petition both President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Rt.Hon. Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah against disbanding Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and be taken back to the Ministry of Works and Transport(MoWT).
According to news reports, cabinet passed a resolution to merge government agencies like UNRA and Ministry of Works as a measure to reduce the cost of public expenditure. Of course it is a good intervention on the outside but inside, it might carry adverse ramifications.
In our petition, the youths cited different reasons among them being that our economy was developing at 8% before covid effects and therefore needs a vibrant entity like UNRA which has been making an average of 400km per annum to continue with the momentum if we are to achieve vision 2040.
Our main worry is, if UNRA is taken back to the parent ministry, there will be ineficiency in service delivery since many ministries in Uganda have too much bureaucracy and sluggishness.
First and foremost, the size of our economy has highly expanded up to $37b as our GDP, meaning, even our infrastructural needs have increased. From 1175km in 1986, government has been able to construct new paved roads measuring to 4,793km which is a significant achievement courtesy of UNRA.
On top of that, UNRA has a challenge of maintaining a total of 1924km existing dilapidated paved roads across the country, a huge task that requires a vibrant entity free from government red-tape.
We should not forget that UNRA is also in charge of all bridges and water transport vessels.This huge responsibility can not be put under a ministry where decisions take decades to be made.
As a department that has always taken the lions share of Uganda’s budget up to a tune of 3trillion Uganda shillings on average due to government strategy of prioritisation of infrastructure, government needs to train more of UNRA workers in capacity building and absorption of public funds. We need to advise them to increase the local contractors up take of government projects in order to reduce capital outflow and support youth employment.
Because we are Patriotic Ugandans with voices that can be heard, we couldn’t make a blunder of keeping quiet when our government is making steps that can drive the economy backwards.
Lastly, when a company makes a bit more money, they expand and create specialised departments like UNRA to employ it’s local resources for production but not rendering them redundant. The more you specialise, the more the efficiency in service delivery.
We have often seen the swiftness of UNRA when the bridges crack on Masaka road and everywhere, they are always fast and reliable.
As an entity, they have their own shortcomings like giving contracts to poor contractors, but we should help them to close those gaps as they continue to serve Ugandans.Whenever we are planning we shouldn’t forget enhancing road infrastructure because it is the engine of economic progress.
The writer Mr. Ben Ssebuguzi is an Economist, entrepreneur and Secretary General of Uganda Poor youth movement
FROM THE EDITOR: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT UNRA
The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) was established by an Act of Parliament; The Uganda National Roads Authority Act, No. 15 of 2006.
UNRA became operational on 1st July 2008. The mandate of UNRA is to develop and maintain the National Roads network, advise Government on general roads policy and contribute to addressing of transport concerns, among others.
UNRA is one of the products of Road Sector Reforms. In 1996, the Government of Uganda prepared the 10 year Road Sector Development Programme (RSDP). This programme was reviewed and updated in 2002 making it a 10 year rolling Road Sector Development Programme Phase 2 (RSDP2).
One of the objectives of RDSP was establishing a robust administration for effective and efficient management of the national roads network. To achieve this objective, Government committed it’self to reform national roads management through the establishment of an autonomous performance-based Road Authority to handle road administration and execution function and restructuring the Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT) to focus on policy, setting standards, regulation, monitoring and evaluation functions.
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