By Joel Ogwang
GOVERNMENT has earmarked sh10b for the tarmacking of roads intended to enhance commerce, reduce dust and facilitate mobility in 26 town councils.
Under the scheme, sh400m has been allocated to each of the qualifying town councils for sealing a kilometer of a main road in the main business area.
The works, according to Eng. Dr. Michael Odongo, the Uganda Road Fund (URF) executive director, will be done through force accounts, with the recipients using road equipment they got under a $100m concessional loan from the China government in June 2012.
“Sh10b is not adequate as it will always have teething problems, but this is just the start. As we go forward, more money will be allocated as we also expand to cover more town councils,” he said.
“We were under pressure to allocate the money to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), but we felt most town councils have dusty and generally poor roads right in the town center. It is important you (CAOs) expedite the allocation of the monies so that it doesn’t go back to the treasury (as is required, by law, at the end of a financial year).”
The sh10b allocation was drawn from the sh72b additional funding to URF in the 2014/ 15 FY budget, growing its resources to sh425b up from the sh355b in the previous year.
The Fund recently disbursed sh93.4b as its quarter one (Q1) release to UNRA, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), 111 districts and 21 municipalities.
However, accountability of the funds, considering the fact that 75 districts have not yet formed District Roads Committees (DRCs) that are, legally, oversight bodies for roads maintenance monies lingers on.
And, during a meeting of URF and Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) of the recipient town councils at the UNRA offices in Kyambogo on Friday, Odongo blasted local governments that have, four years down the road, failed to constitute DRCs.
He accused CAOs, the main accounting officers, of being part of cartels that steal roads maintenance monies, warning them of punitive measures.
“Formerly, CAOs were hiding under contracts committees to do anything they wanted with URF monies, sometime inflating the cost of firewood and murram got nearby,” he said.
“But, now, the funds come directly to you (CAOs), but you have formed cartels to ‘eat’ money meant for roads maintenance. Some CAOs are frustrating attempts to form DRCs because they don’t want accountability.
He cited Kole district where theft of monies occurred and is being investigated by the Inspector General of Government (IGG), warning that more district officials implicated in corruption would be prosecuted.
Ronald Namugera, the URF road maintenance engineer, said payments for works, supply of goods and services under force accounts would be undertaken as per the local Government Finance and Accountability Regulations, 2007.
“Cash advances to staff should be minimized and payments should be made directly to the supplier/ service provider’s bank account,” he said.
“Supervision of force accounts works will be carried out by a team of technical staff led by the district engineer or mechanical engineer assisted by a supervisor and manager appointed by the accounting officer.”
The project, Andrew Naimanye, the manager in-charge of planning and programing at URF said, will go a long way in reducing the long-term costs of maintenance as perennial re-gravelling was a waste of scarce resources and was not cost-effective.
“Paving will reduce/ control costs of both routine and periodic maintenance and also reduce dust which is a health hazard,” he said.
Accountability of the funds for the resealing project, Naimanye said, would be made different from the normal quarterly work plan accountability reports, submitted to URF under separate cover.