Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises-COSASE, has resolved to probe the Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA for allegedly extorting money from truck drivers at weighbridges.
Joel Ssenyonyi, the Committee chairperson said that while UNRA is struggling to raise funds for the construction of different road projects, some staff collude with drivers to pay bribes and dodge penalties for overloading at weighbridges.
Weighbridges are platforms that are used to determine the weight of heavy-duty trucks, trailers, and other large vehicles in transit as they ferry goods in and out of production or distribution centres.
Ssenyonyi tasked UNRA’s top management to disclose if they are aware of their staff extorting money at the weighbridges, especially in Buwama and Kampala.
According to the Vehicle Dimensions and Load Control Regulations of 2017, the overloading fees for maximum gross weight range from 0.5 tonnes which attracts a charge of US Dollars 90.95, while trucks that overload to a tune of 31.5 tonnes and above are charged US Dollars 145.889.
UNRA’s Director of Road Safety Protection, John Bosco Ssejjemba acknowledged that cases of extortion have been reported to the Authority and so far, five staff have been dismissed after investigations found them culpable.
Allen Kagina, UNRA’s Executive Director said that there are challenges with the management of axle load and abuse of axle loads and asked the Committee to grant UNRA time to come up with proposals that include the use of closed-circuit television-CCTV cameras to combat the vice.
The MPs agreed to allow the Authority to come up with solutions to end the vice. In the FY 2021/2022, UNRA collected 1.5 billion shillings in fines on weighbridges, and the money was channeled to the Consolidated Fund but MPs believe more revenues are being lost through bribery.
UNRA is currently operating nine fixed weighbridges in Mbarara, Lukaaya, Luwero, Magamaga, Mbale, Elegu as well as Mobile weighbridges in Kasese, Masaka road, Kampala, and Kamdini in Oyam district.
Last week, COSASE commenced inquiries into audit queries in UNRA following a red flag raised by the Auditor General against the authority in the Financial year 2021/2022 relating to virements and reallocation of employee costs that flouted the Public Finance Management Act of 2015.