3 January 2013

Uganda: Highway Construction Delayed Over Land Compensation

The construction of the super Entebbe express highway that started a month ago is likely to delay as the Government looks for money to compensate land owners.

In an interview with New Vision yesterday, works minister Eng. Abraham Byandala said they need over sh100b to compensate the land owners for the 51.4km.

However, he added that they can only compensate up to 15km. This implies that the Government has a deficit of sh71b as it can only afford to pay 29b out of the 100b needed to compensate all the people.

"This is very unfortunate because it implies work in areas where land owners have not been compensated cannot go on. This will delay the project and create more costs," Byandaala said.

The Government contracted the China Communications Construction Company to construct the highway at a cost of $476m.

Outlining the ministry's priorities for 2013, Byandaala revealed that the feasibility study for the establishment of the national construction company has been completed.

"In their study, the experts have recommended to the Government that we would save a lot of money in road works if we started a national construction company. All the major construction activities are currently being done by foreign firms and it is very expensive to hire them. That is why we want to start our national company," Byandala explained.

He reported that the entire project of starting a national company according to the findings of the experts would cost sh182b.

Asked to comment on reports that development partners are opposed to the Government plan to start a national construction com- Works and transport minister Abraham Byandala pany, Byandaala said: "That is true. The development partners are opposed to the move, arguing that such work should be left to the private sector. But we shall continue to explain to them to realise the justification for it."

"After internally discussing the feasibility report from the experts, we shall take to cabinet for more discussions. We believe this is the way. Even in China, most construction companies are state owned," he argued.

The minister also expressed disappointment that the Road Fund is yet to be used for what it was meant leading to a crisis of many roads in a sorry state.

"A majority of our roads across the country urgently need to be repaired. That is why I have written to the President to meet him and we discuss the need to operationalise the road fund," he stated.

Byandala said he received information that from the road users' fund, URA collects between sh800 and sh900b, which if given to the ministry would greatly help in repairing roads.

"URA does not give us that money for the Road Fund.

They instead put it in the Consolidated Fund. If I get it, I will give UNRA money to repair national roads and at least sh2b to each district to repair their roads," Byandala said.

Asked for the update on the ministry engineers who were interdicted for allegedly colluding with construction firms to steal money, Byandala said: "It is unfortunate that six months have passed and the Police has not yet prosecuted them."

"That law says in such a case, they are supposed to report back to duty." Regarding the high road carnage in the country, Byandala said he wants the instrument he recently signed to be implemented before the end of this month of January.

"The instrument on public service vehicles will regulate drivers and ensure that all comply with the rules we have set to minimise accidents.

Police assured me they would begin implementing it this month," Byandala stated. He said they have already formulated the syllabus which will be followed to train drivers and that they have also started registering and evaluating driving schools to ensure they all meet the required standards.

Uganda has the second highest road carnage in the world after Ethiopia with about 3,500 people dying every year and several thousands crippled.

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