UNRA’s Debt Hits Shs629 Billion

by Christopher Kiiza
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The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is operating with a debt of 629.1 billion shillings as a result of an unreleased portion of funds for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years.

UNRA receives budget allocations for recurrent expenditure and development activities from the Government of Uganda with support from Development Partners.

The development budget is mainly used for rehabilitating, improving and upgrading the national road network. The recurrent budget is used for staff wages, planning and design, and to meet operational and administration costs.

In addition, UNRA receives funds from the Uganda Roads Fund (URF) specifically for the maintenance and operation of the National Road Network.

According to UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina, the Authority carries a debt of 629.1 billion shillings as a result of an unreleased funds in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years.

“UNRA carried forward a debt from financial year 2021/22 of 471.84 billion shillings. This debt takes the first call on the budget for the financial year of reporting, reducing the amount available for the work plan by the same amount. By close of financial year 2022/23, UNRA closed with a debt of 629.1 billion,” she said.

The release of funds for the Authority’s budget for the financial year 2022/23 was short by 11.6% which spiked the debt to 629 billion shillings.

The approved budget for the financial year 2022/23 was 3,003 billion; however, the release was short by approximately 11.6%, amounting to 349.23 billion shillings.

The Government of Uganda recurrent non-wage component took the biggest cut of 40.2% (30.55 billion), followed by the development component cut by 20.8% (316.39 shillings). 

This has had negative implications on the sector such as a decline in the condition of the road network given that there is shortage of funds for road maintenance activities.

The unreleased funds have also led to delayed or canceled road construction projects given that UNRA could not have sufficient funds to compensate project affected persons.

Kagina concurred that severe budget cuts and reduced release of funding are indeed slowing down the progress of road developments. As a result, the operation and road maintenance budgets remained lower than required, reducing the level of service.

Reduced release of finding coupled with heavy and long rainy season have resulted in slow progress of construction projects, and rapid deterioration of the condition of roads. This reduced the service level and increased the urgency for periodic maintenance of road sections.

National Road Network Condition

A road condition assessment is carried out annually on the national road network to establish the prevailing level of service. 97% of the national paved road network was in fair to good condition while the unpaved roads were 89%. This is above the NDPIII target of 85% and 70%, respectively.

However, a significant percentage of the road network that was in good condition has fallen into the fair category for both the paved and unpaved network.

“This road maintenance backlog will spill into financial year 2023/24, increasing the required maintenance and road user costs,” said Kagina.

UNRA is currently actively engaged in the execution of 21 road development projects, including new construction and upgrading from gravel to paved bituminous standards. These projects cover a combined distance of 1,313 kilometers.

Increase In National Road Paved Stock

UNRA has expanded Uganda’s national road network by adding 254.5 Kilometers in the financial year 2022/23, bringing the total paved stock to 6,133 Kilometers.

This investment in infrastructure contributes to facilitating ease of movement, boosting trade, and promoting tourism across the country.

Additionally, 46 Kilometers of town roads within various towns and municipalities outside the national road network were upgraded.

In light of this, by the end of June 2023, UNRA had completed upgrading a total of 300km of roads, with 254km being National Roads and 46 Km being Town Roads.

Building Local Construction Capacity

In the financial year 2022/23, contracts totaling 1.9 trillion shillings equivalent to 32.84% by value, were awarded to local providers.

According to Kagina, this achievement was made possible by diligently implementing local content reservation schemes, accrediting construction materials, and giving preferences to local and resident providers.

Actions taken to build local content/ capacity in the roads sub sector include; ring fencing procurement contracts in mechanized maintenance of unpaved and paved roads, periodic maintenance of paved and unpaved national roads, low volume sealed roads, and swamp improvements.

Other procurement contracts ring fenced for local contractors include; labour-based maintenance of national roads.

Furthermore, UNRA obtained accreditation from Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) for reservation of selected feasibility study and detailed engineering consultancy services for road upgrading projects to local consultancy firms.

christopherkiiza2016@gmail.com

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