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Govt funds $400m worth of priority roads in Uganda

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th August 2013 02:34 PM

WITH the national budget now estimated at sh12 trillion shillings this 2012/ 13 FY, one of the sectors that has benefited most from this growth is the roads and transport sector. Not only has the sector been garnering over a trillion over the past four FYs, it got sh2.3 trillion, by far the biggest

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WITH the national budget now estimated at sh12 trillion shillings this 2012/ 13 FY, one of the sectors that has benefited most from this growth is the roads and transport sector. Not only has the sector been garnering over a trillion over the past four FYs, it got sh2.3 trillion, by far the biggest

By Joel Ogwang
WITH the national budget now estimated at sh12 trillion shillings this 2012/ 13 FY, one of the sectors that has benefited most from this growth is the roads and transport sector. Not only has the sector been garnering over a trillion over the past four FYs, it got sh2.3 trillion, by far the biggest budgetary allocation to the sector off the consolidated fund in Uganda’s history.

Due to the growth in internal revenues, the government has increased its stake in financing the roads development budget to 60%, with development partners now financing 40%. In the past years, it was the latter than contributed much towards national roads development. This 2013/ 14 financial year, the Government has underlined its growing stature as a key financier of roads development by taking over the construction of 500kms of roads formerly lined-up to be worked on under the new Contractor


Facilitated financing (CFF) mechanism
Under CFF, a total of 1, 900kms of the 20 roads central to Uganda’s primary growth sectors of tourism, agriculture and oil & gas were to be upgraded from gravel to paved standards under a Public- Private Partnership (PPP) over the next three to five years.

By tendering-out the roads, the government expected to raise $2b when it enters a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with shortlisted firms to confirm their relationship in respect of financing and implementation of the works that kick-off this 2013/ 14 FY. The 500kms are valued at $400m, according to Dan Alinange, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) publicist.

“The other 1, 400kms will be done under CFF,” he says. “We are working out details of finalising MoU with prequalified companies to allow them negotiate with their financiers before submitting their bids.” The shortlisting of the contractors are being conducted in accordance with the public procurement procedures contained in the Government’s Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, 2003 and will be open to all bidders from eligible source countries.


Why internal financing is better
With roads now a key Government priority, considering it funds 60% of the roads budget and the development partners’ share has fallen to 40% from 60% over the years, the state will save on interest when it finances works on the 500kms of roads it has taken over. Some of the roads include; Mukon- Katosi- Kyetume, Mpigi- Maddu- Sembabule, Villa Maria- Sembabule, Olwiyo- Gulu- Kitgum and Musiita- Lumino.

The African Development Bank (ADB) has also takenover the financing of the Kapchorwa- Suam road that was also to be worked on under CFF. The 500kms have been indicated in the 2013/ 14 FY budget that finance minister, Maria Kiwanuka read in July, indicating a growth in roads and transport sector financing from sh1.6 trillion in the last 2012/ 13 FY to sh2.3 trillion of the sh12 trillion 2013/ 14 FY budget.

The decision to take-over the financing of the roads is economic, says Eng. David Luyimbazi, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) director in-charge of planning. “It is cheaper for the government to finance roads when it has the money,” he says. “This will save the taxpayer from paying interest on the borrowed funds and reduce Uganda’s debt burden.” Henceforth, UNRA, in consultation with the finance ministry, is exploring which roads to those the government has taken over. “We are seeking guidance from the government on whether to replace those 500km or continue with the reduced scope (of the remaining 1, 400km),” says Luyimbazi.


Works state minister, Eng. John Byabagambi noted that with a sh744.7b allocated to the works and transport sector in the 2013/ 14 FY budget, more road projects will be undertaken. “Seven road projects were completed in the 2012/ 13 FY,” he says. “The expectations are very high now.

We will start five new projects this (2013/ 14) FY, especially those in the NRM manifesto.” UNRA trims down bidders UNRA advertised requests for expression of interest in local and international media on July 12, 2012, attracting 46 international companies.

However, whilst Uganda boasts over 100 local contractors, none of them tendered in their interests, compared to 16 from China, India (9), Turkey (5), South Africa (3), USA (2), Spain (2) as well as one each from Egypt, France, Portugal, Israel, Ireland, Netherlands, Malaysia, Switzerland and the UK, according to UNRA. “Over 40 contractors bided for the tenders, but we scaled the number down to 20,” says Alinange. “That is the number we are evaluating now. Procurement of contractors is on-going but we shall see which projects take-off this FY. It is a complex undertaking we haven’t done before, so it will take time (to procure contractors).”

Tarmac network Uganda has a national road network totalling 21, 000 managed by UNRA. The body corporate has upgraded 500km to tarmac and rehabilitated 1, 000kms over the past four years. Today, Uganda’s paved and tarmac network totals 3,800km, up from 3000km by 2008. “In a year’s time, we will have 4, 000kms,” says Alinange. “Over the next three years, we expect to have 5, 000kms of tarmac if all projects go as planned. This will go a long way in selling Uganda as a tourism and investments destination.”

Byabagambi noted that Uganda’s construction industry has turned competitive, with contractors eager to finish projects ahead of time. “We are taking on more projects and, right now, the absorption capacity for project funds is 120%,” he says. “Contractors are now more efficient as everyone has to prove their worth by working ahead of schedule.”

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Construction of new Nile bridge
By Vision Reporter
HAVING lived for nearly 60-years, a period for which it has served Ugandans, the Nalubaale Bridge has, surely, played its part in rapid socio- economic transformation the country has witnessed since the colonial government opened it in 1954. The bridge, located in Njeru, a suburb of Jinja district, on the Victoria Nile between the source of the Nile to the south and Nalubaale Power Station to the north, has outlived its lifespan, overwhelmed by the growing traffic in Uganda.

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Ryohei ISHII and Ssebugga Kimeze, acting executive director UNRA sign contract

When it was commissioned, Uganda had less than 5,000 vehicles. The vehicular population has since hit a million to-date. Even with its steed, the bridge is giving-in to tear and wear, with cracks and corrosion evident on its supports. To ensure its longevity, the bridge has undergone three major repairs in the past, notably in 1996, 2002 and 2008. Contracted to Spencon Services Ltd, the bridge underwent a sh10b refurbishment in 2012, with Mott MacDonald/ Kagga partners as the consultants.


New bridge in offing
To reduce the excess load on the Nalubaale Bridge arising from increased traffic, plans are in high gear to build a
new bridge adjacent to the old one. Works on the new $110m overlay that will stand between the old Nalubaale
Bridge and the railway bridge, are funded through a jointventure between the Japanese Government through its
aid arm, the Japanese International Development Cooperation (JICA) and the Government. Annually, it is expected that Government will contribute sh14b and JICA sh65b towards the construction. A cable bridge with a length of 525 metres will replace the 57-year-old Owen Falls Dam Bridge.

It will stand 80m high and span 525m long with dual lanes. A 1.1km of dual lane approach road will also be constructed together with three junctions. The bridge will be the first cable-stayed bridge, and one of the biggest and deluxe bridge projects. On completion, the new overpass will decongest the old Nalubale Bridge that, currently, is Uganda’s only northern corridor transit route and handles over a million vehicles that ply the country’s roads.

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Kafu-Kiryandongo road will be worked on


Consultancy contract signed

The construction of the bridge has gained momentum, with the Government signing a $14.5m (over sh37b) contract with three consultancy companies to fast-track erecting of the new Nile Bridge. A joint venture led by Oriental Consultants Company (Japan), backed by Eight- Japan Engineering Consultants Inc. and South Korea’s PyungHwa
Engineering Consultants will supervise construction of the bridge expected to complement the old Nalubale Bridge. Ssebugga Kimeze, the acting executive director of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) signed the contract on behalf of the Government while Ryohei ISHII, the Oriental Consultants Company signed on behalf of the joint venture recently.

The joint venture was chosen to expedite construction works expected to tee-off between September and October 2013. “The consultants will be charged with issuing appropriate instructions to the (works) contractor in accordance with technical specifications and ensure construction works are executed within the contract period and cost,” said Kimeze. “We want to see that construction does not overshoot the cost and time within which the work is supposed to be executed.” The tenders for civil works were supposed to be returned by January 25, 2012, but were extended to February 25, 2013 to give contractors adequate time to prepare their bids.
 

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An artistic impression of the new Nile Bridge


Contractors

Out of the many contractors who expressed interest in the multi-billion project only three that entered joint ventures were shortlisted. They include Germany’s STRABAG/RBE (Italy), ZENITAKA (Japan) / HUNDAI (S. Korea) and VINCI (France)/ ORASCOM (Egypt)/ SOGEA (France). UNRA is in advanced process of procuring a contractor, says Dan Alinange, the UNRA publicist. “

We are negotiating with the best evaluated company,” he says. “We hope that by September, we will have completed negotiations then sign a contract with the contractor.” President Yoweri Museveni is expected to preside over the launching of the construction works in Jinja. While the old bridge’s lifespan was estimated at 60-years, the new one will last at least 100 years.

However, even when it is completed by 2017, the old bridge will be retained because it houses hydroelectric power facilities. The bridge structure carries both a road and the Owen Falls Dam that are interdependent. Failure of the bridge could trigger failure of the dam. Once the contract is awarded, the contractor will have three months to mobilise equipment then start construction. “We expect the construction to start in 2014,” says Alinange

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Weigh-bridge offenders to face express penalties
By Joel Ogwang
Through the enactment of the Traffic and Road Safety (weigh-bridges) Regulations, 1 998 and the UNRA Act, 2007, the Government authorized UNRA to preserve the national roads infrastructure and ensure motorists do not carry excess load that hasten the deterioration of roads

 

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A bus undergoes weight check at the Luwero weigh-bridge

As a result, heavy commercial motor vehicles must comply with the size and weight standards stipulated in the traffic and road safety (weighbridges) regulations, 1998, or face punishment in form of fines and imprisonment. UNRA is responsible for axle load control and weigh bridges management for purposes of certifying road user compliance with national laws and standards.

“The purpose of weighbridges is to control overloading and minimise the premature deterioration of the road infrastructure,” says Geoffrey Obara, the UNRA manager axle-load controller. He adds that they also help reduce vehicle operation costs and improve safety of the vehicle itself while on the road as well as that of other road users. An over-loaded vehicle can, for example, fail to negotiate a round-about or move slowly on steep gradients, often failing to brake and, resultantly putting other road users at risk.


UNRA wants review of the law
Being the custodian of national roads, UNRA is seeking a review of the Traffic and Road Safety (weighbridges) Regulations, 1998, to allow it conduct on-spot penalties for drivers and owners of trucks guilty of carrying excess loads. Under the existing regulations, a single-axle truck is supposed to carry eight tonnes; three axles of 12 tyres (24 tons) and seven axles of 26 tyres(56 tons).

However, cross-border transit trucks flaunt this regulation, even carrying loads exceeding 70 tons on eight fixed weigh-bridges that UNRA operates.

This damages roads, accounting for $21m in annual roads maintenance costs, according to the works and transport ministry statistics. Once intercepted, the offenders undergo the due process of prosecution and punishment in courts of law. “We want to be allowed to do on-spot or express penalties for drivers found guilty of carrying excess loads on our roads,” says Dan Alinange, the UNRA publicist.

If granted, the move will be similar to the Uganda Police Force’s Express Penalty Scheme (EPS) where a motorist found guilty of a traffic offence is issued with a receipt whose payments must be deposited in a bank.


Government suspends weigh-bridges
In October, 2009, the Government suspended weigh-bridges over allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Upon instituting a commission of inquiry headed by Prof. Epelu Opio whose report unearthed gross corruption, maladministration, abuse of office, undue delays and influence peddling, the Government lifted the eight months’ ban. However, former works minister, Eng. John Nasasira undertook radical reforms in the weigh-bridge and axle load control administration system before resumption.

Then, as it is now, -prosecution and conviction of culprits is cumbersome as courts only convene during working hours and on weekdays yet truck drivers mostly transit at night. The maximum penalty for over-loading is a fine of 30 currency points (a currency point is equal to sh20,000). “The regulation is not punitive enough,” says Obara. “The fact that courts also open during official working hours causes delays in punishing the offenders.”


Law under review
As a result, the works and transport ministry is currently reviewing the regulation with a view to make it more punitive and timely. “We want the punishment to be commensurate with the damages done on roads,” said Alinange. “All these issues will be addressed in the reviews.”


Role of Parliament

Parliament is the law-making body in Uganda. Henceforth, repealing any law has to be debated by the House and assented to by the President. For regulations, however, the line minister may, in consultation with technocrats, approve an amendment, but these apply to minor regulations since most regulations are approved by the Parliament before the presidential assent. State minister for works, Eng. John Byabagambi says the harmonisation of the East African Community (EAC) laws on weigh-bridges hampered the repeal of the regulation. “We (government) should have done it two years ago.

A cabinet paper to amend the Road Safety Act, 1998 is ready. We are only waiting for the harmonisation and domestication of the EAC laws,” he said. During the East African Legislative Assembly meeting in Kampala in June, 2013, the harmonised weigh-bridge and axle load control laws under the EAC treaty.

“That law was passed. It is now a matter of domesticating it. By next (2014/15) FY, we should have express penalties for trucks that flaunt weighbridge laws,” Byabagambi explained. When contacted, William Busuulwa, the Uganda National Transport Alliance (UNTA) chief, welcomed the amendment, but called for harmonisation of EAC and COMESA laws

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Kampala Northern Bypass to be expanded next year

By Joel Ogwang
The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is in the final stages of procuring a supervisor and contractor for the second phase of the Kampala Northern Bypass project. Widening of the 17.5km stretch of the road to double carrier involving converting the whole stretch of 21km into a double carrier, up from the current 3.5km, is expected to commence in early 2014.

 

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A truck goes past a section of the Kampala Northern By-pass at the Bweyogerere round-about. Seven round-abouts will be removed and replaced with fly-overs in the second phase of the bypass’ construction

As well, seven round-abouts at Ntinda, Kisaasi, Kawaala, Kalerwe, Hoima road, Nansana and Busega will be removed and replaced with fly-overs in the second phase. The design for upgrading the whole stretch of the road into dual carriage is complete.

The works minister, Eng. Abraham Byandaala told the Parliamentary physical infrastructure committee recently that they have already advertised bids. “We shall complete the process after which we shall take about two months to evaluate the bids.Construction will begin in February 2014,” he said.

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About the bypass
Construction of the first phase of the road was undertaken by Salini Construttori, an Italian firm, and Spencon Services as the sub-contractors. Initially estimated at sh87b, construction works started in August 2004, funded through a joint venture between the Government of Uganda and the European Union (EU). While the former met costs of land acquisition, compensation and taxes, the latter funded road design studies, property valuation, construction and supervision.

The first phase involved building a 3.5km dualcarriage way with the remaining 17.7km stretch being single carriage. The costs rose and, by the time construction works were concluded, its value was estimated at sh120b. The rise in costs was partly attributed to a re-design and disagreements between Salini and UNRA that caused delays in completion from November 2006 to October 2009. This made it one of the most expensive road projects in  post-independence Uganda.

The by-pass was constructed primarily to decongest traffic from the city centre by diverting transit trucks heading to Western Uganda, Rwanda and eastern DR Congo. However, the growing vehicular population has overwhelmed the road, with traffic jam now evident and a common sight on the road, especially at Kalerwe, Kisaasi and Nansana roundabouts, contrary to what the Government envisaged when the decision to construct the bypass was undertaken. This has necessitated the expansion of the 21km road that stretches from Bweyogerere- Naalya- Kiwatule- Kyebando- Kalerwe, Bwaise- Hoima road- Kawaala and Busega.


Second phase
The second phase, estimated at 60m Euros, will involve replacing bridges with flyovers and turning the 17.5km stretch into a double-carriage. It will be jointly financed through a 40m Euros grant from the European Union and an 18m Euros loan UNRA obtained from the European Investment Bank, with the Government of Uganda funding 20% of the project. “We got the 40m Euros from EU but needed additional 18m Euros loan which Parliament approved,” says Dan Alinange, the UNRA publicist.

UNRA has embarked on procuring a contractor expected to be in place by the end of 2013. The tenders were advertised by the beginning of July 2013, but no contractors have expressed interest so far. “We expect to have a contractor by the end of the year in time for construction works to commence early next year 2014,” he says. Since the design plan was for dual-carriage, people along the road were compensated in the first phase. Sh40b has been earmarked for compensation for extra-work around the round abouts.

The authority acquired a 41 acre corridor for the road expansion. Properties near the round-abouts that will be affected by the construction works have been valued. “We are also waiting for the chief government valuer to approve the valuation report before we embark on compensation of properties near the round-abouts,” Alinange says. He adds that properties in Kalerwe, commercial buildings and Ndere centre, among other expensive properties, will be affected. At completion of the second phase in three-years’ time, a motorist will be able to drive non-stop from Busega to Namboole.

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Govt funds of priority $400m worth roads in Uganda

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