Multiple districts, municipalities, and cities in Uganda are grappling with unutilized funds designated for road projects. Despite being allocated 1 billion Ugandan Shillings (UGX) for roadworks in each district, 10 cities, and 31 municipalities, the money remains dormant in their accounts. Local government officials cite confusion surrounding the guidelines for expenditure as a major hurdle.
In a bid to provide clarity, on July 27, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms. Anita Among, directed that the Road Rehabilitation Development Grant should be managed by the Uganda Road Fund through district roads committees. She emphasized the importance of prudent and accountable fund utilization. This included organizing statutory meetings to prioritize and create work plans, which must be approved by the respective roads committees.
However, ambiguity persists as the Speaker’s guidelines focus on maintenance of non-tarmacked roads, predominantly found in rural areas, while Cabinet’s guidelines emphasize rehabilitation. This discrepancy has left local leaders perplexed and hesitant to begin construction projects.
Local leaders have sought guidance from the Ministry of Finance to reconcile these conflicting directives before initiating any construction projects. They are eager to put their budgeted 1 billion UGX to good use once the guidelines are clarified.
Richard Rwabuhinga, the President of Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA), reveals that each district holds 500 million UGX out of the promised 1 billion UGX for roadworks. The divergence between Cabinet and Parliament’s directives is a source of concern, and local leaders are advocating for a resolution.
Wakiso District’s Chief Administrative Officer, Mr. Alfred Malinga, explains that a circular from the Ministry of Local Government specifies that the funds should be allocated for road maintenance rather than rehabilitation. This has prompted Wakiso District to prepare a work plan for the maintenance of certain roads.
In contrast, Kalangala District’s secretary for works, Mr. Herman Jilibe, states that the roads committee has started meeting and drawing up a work plan, despite the delay in fund utilization.
Similar cases exist in Jinja, where 13 kilometers of roads have been earmarked for maintenance. In Kaliro, the district received a meager 250 million UGX for the first quarter, which they find insufficient to complete even one road project. Kisoro District and Kisoro Municipality have presented their work plans, but they too grapple with unclear guidelines.
Bushenyi District Vice Chairperson, Mr. Peter N Mugume, points out that the money is released every three months, leading to a disconnect between initial directions for rehabilitation and the subsequent guidance for maintenance. This uncertainty has prompted local governments to await a final decision from the government.
The Minister for Local Government, Mr. Raphael Magyezi, contends that there is no contradiction between Parliament and Cabinet’s guidelines, as both are integral to the government’s decision-making process. He clarified that the focus is on road maintenance to ensure broader coverage, rather than the rehabilitation and creation of new roads.
Mr. Magyezi also underlined the role of legislators on district roads committees in guiding districts based on the officially approved decision, which was communicated to all districts.