FIVE months ago, the state of the roads in Kampala was very bad. Several heavily-loaded vehicles overturned as they tried to drive through the potholes that had grown so huge and deep that travelling by car had become a hazard to the sick and the faint hearted.
It is against this background that we feel the impact of the city road repair contracts that are underway. We are grateful to the Government for the timely intervention, even with the quality and scope of works being questionable.
It is, however, noticeable that some of the roads that have been worked on and reported complete have already developed new potholes. One wonders whether we are getting value for money from this level of intervention or whether the roads will remain reasonably serviced at the time of CHOGM and for how long.
While I do not apportion blame, it sounds like a case of â€˜working so hard, but without the hard work being good enough!â€™ which is why I am of the opinion that the traditional one time maintenance contracts like the ones given to the contractors working on the city roads are simply unsuitable for high traffic city roads.
They do not meet long-term social and economic expectations. They offer reduced value for money and they can only compound the predicament of a constrained public treasury.
The answer lies in the need to involve the private sector more by engaging them in performance-based contracts.
The performance-based contractor is expected to maintain the road at a given minimum standard for a specified time and in return get regularised payments, for example, on monthly or quarterly basis.
The contractor is motivated to use the best available materials, methods and workmanship to achieve a longer lasting product so as to reduce on the maintenance requirement and, thus, make a saving as opposed to traditional contracting where the contractor does the least possible, get paid and gets out of the job fast.
In performance-based contracting, the quality of work is inherently benchmarked against commercial forces which in turn offer potential increase in value for money.
Countries like Chad, UK, USA, Argentina and New Zealand have concluded performance-based contracts and have a vast wealth of experience from which we could borrow a leaf. Performance based contracts promise several benefits to the private sector, the public sector and the public â€“ it is the way to go.
The writer is a civil engineer working on road maintenance contracts