Shoddy Uganda roadworks shock the public


KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – Roads repaired and upgraded for the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) last year in November already show signs of major rot. The main road leading to the summit venues in Munyonyo, the Commonwealth Resort and the Speke Resort and Conference Centre, incidentally not far from this correspondent’s residence on the lake shores, has developed a major crater, and the blame game between city council and the contractors, local company Zzimwe Construction, is in full swing.

The city council refuses to repair the damage pointing at shoddy work by the contractors, who in turn are introducing all sorts of mitigating excuses, none of which holds water with the public. Zzimwe has in the past been regularly subjected to negative press reports over contract delays and similar problems of quality of the work, but only time will tell who will eventually fix the road and who will pay for this extra and unexpected work.

The present heavy rains are also playing a part to open up new potholes on a daily basis and turning them progressively into craters or various sizes. However, instead of rushing into action to repair the damage promptly, the council in its usual fashion looks on in apparent idle mode, probably waiting for the next major global conference to descend on Kampala and central government then picking up the repair bills once again as it did before the Commonwealth summit last year.

In a related development many of the improvements made by central government ahead of CHOGM last year now present themselves again in a state of disrepair and cleanliness too has suffered severely in past weeks. Shame on the city council and the city administration and mega barbs for continuing to mess up Kampala, where the people can hardly wait for central government to take over the city management.

In a further development, it was also learned that the additional excise duty put on fuel for road maintenance during last year’s budget reading apparently did not reach the intended use and parliament is now seeking other ways to ensure the collected funds go indeed towards the intended purpose, which is road maintenance and not general budget support. The country needs to maintain over 10,500 kilometers of national roads and over 30000 kilometers of district and feeder roads, while at the same time also constructing new access and through roads in the less accessible parts of the country.

Meanwhile, one of the key highway construction projects over the past decade, the Northern Bypass funded by the European Union, will not be ready this month after all. Italian construction company Salini has run short of excuses, which for the past year sound like a broken cassette, i.e. blaming the weather and blaming construction designs. Neither reasons is any longer accepted by the public, as the design was known when Salini handed in their tender and weather pattern are also a known quantity. The bypass was briefly opened for the Commonwealth Summit late last year, to help route heavy goods traffic around the city and then closed again for finishing.”

However, no finish is in sight and calls are growing louder to penalize Salini for the constant delays, which have been a hallmark of their engagement in Uganda so far.

More worrying is the fact that the Italian company was also chosen to build the Bujagali hydroelectric dam and where delays would be even more crucial for the nation. The EU delegation offices in Kampala are said to be monitoring the developments closely and a massive fine for Salini may now be in the pipeline.