Works Ministry to Focus on Road Maintenance

In a significant shift in infrastructure strategy, the government will now have renewed focus on the maintenance of existing roads over construction of new ones.

This decision comes amidst reduced allocations of funds and inadequate releases, which have led to a substantial maintenance backlog in the road network across the country.

The Minister of Works and Transport, Gen. Katumba Wamala in a statement to Parliament on Wednesday, 24 April 2024, emphasised the need to prioritise maintenance to preserve and protect the existing road assets.

“This has created a significant maintenance backlog that shall necessitate increased focus on maintenance of the paved road network,” he said.

Katumba Wamala said Increased allocation of resources in the National Development Plan (NDP) IV is crucial to preserving road assets and expanding the road infrastructure stock.

He blamed this on the reduction in resources which has delayed key interventions planned under NDPIII including upgrades to support tourism, oil and gas activities and congestion relief in urban areas.

The NDP III period saw plans for road development, with over 3,500KM of new roads earmarked for upgrading and the construction of strategic bridges.

According Gen. Katumba Wamala, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shocks, led to a drastic reduction in funding for infrastructure projects.

“Allocations for road development dropped significantly, affecting both domestically funded and externally funded projects. The pandemic disrupted construction activities and land acquisition processes further hampering project implementation,” he added.

Despite these challenges, the Works Minister revealed that the government managed to achieve some success in road development.

“By June 2023, 750KM of national roads had been upgraded to paved standard, albeit falling short of the target of 1,500KM,” he said.

Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has carried forward debts of Shs215 billion, Shs471 billion, and Shs629 billion respectively, for the last three financial years in the NDP III period.

“Rising cost of construction especially after Covid-19 has led to an increase in key road construction and maintenance inputs such as bitumen, steel, timber and fuel thus increasing the costs of operation,” Katumba Wamala added.

On the Kampala – Jinja Expressway, the minister said that government needs over Shs236 billion to pay the project affected persons adding that right of way will be acquired by the end of December 2024 for section 1 and 2, and section 3 by December 2025.  He revealed that road construction works are expected to start in December 2025.

The Speaker, Anita Among gave an assurance that Parliament will support the allocation of funds to the ministry for  since roads infrastructure is key for development.

“We are going to make sure we prioritise your sector. The number of people who have died due to accidents are so many, ” Among said.

Johnson Ategeka