For Elgon, more funding begets more potholes and few new roads

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For Elgon, more funding begets more potholes and few new roads
Kaguta Road in Mbale

Devoid of progress on the ground, some stakeholders have accused the authorities of misappropriating the road funds instead.

The central government allocates Shs500 million for road rehabilitation projects in districts and cities nationwide.

Shs500 million to each local government would look like peanuts in enhancing accessibility of road network but given annually and supported with auxiliary funding, it should create impressions.

But in many local governments, Mbale City inclusive, concerns have been raised regarding the execution and outcomes of the projects amidst reports of substandard work and stalled progress in some parts of the country.

Mbale City has in its annual kitty Shs605 million - including an additional Shs105 million conventional road fund - towards improving the state of roads, Mr Ambrose Oceng, the city accounting officer, confirmed.

Also read: Governance crisis, service neglect forcing Mbale City to its knees

Prominent roads such as Kaguta Road, Namabasa Road, and Namakole Road were earmarked for construction, yet the results on the ground appear to fall short of expectations.

“We planned to do drainage works, spot shape and grade and spot graveling,” Oceng said.

Visits to Kaguta have revealed a mixed picture of progress. While the road witnessed partial grading, the installation of culverts in Malare has ground to a halt, raising concerns about the project's completion.

Works on Kaguta Road in Mbale City was affected by theft of construction materials

Similarly, Namabasa Road, allegedly allocated Shs180 million, remains riddled with potholes despite reported expenditures.

Residents have voiced their discontent, citing substandard workmanship and stalled construction efforts.

Devoid of progress on the ground, some stakeholders have accused the authorities of misappropriating the road funds instead.

“They have 'eaten' government money for nothing, they have not levelled the road and the way we see the rains are going to destroy the road in a short while,” a resident said.

Mbale City Town Clerk Oceng has underscored the challenges hindering the projects' advancement.

“Our biggest challenge relates to equipment, we need equipment which is good and sound, which can open and maintain reads within the city,” he told Nile Post.

"We have expressed it to the Ministry of Works and of Local Government, we've advocated for special equipment for garbage management as well as road maintenance."

Additionally, Mayor Cassim Namugali attributed the delay to a surge in cement price.

“We did some remedial work because we needed to allow the flow of traffic on that road,” Namugali said, adding that less than 20 percent of the work has been done.

"We have been having challenges with cement in this area but I am told now the supplies have resumed so within this week the project managers should resume works,” Namugali added.

The project was also hampered by the site engineer who was arrested and interdicted over the alleged theft of materials meant for Kaguta road.

Bududa

 

Meanwhile, in Bududa District, a similar narrative unfolds as the Shs500 million road rehabilitation fund, coupled with conventional road funds, failed to catalyse progress as expected.

Roadworks along earmarked roads have stagnated, casting doubts on the effective utilisation of the allocated funds.

The situation has sparked a sharp divide between the political leadership and the chief accounting officer, with tensions escalating over the allocation and management of the funds.

Mr Milton Kamoti, Bududa District chairperson, revealed that only a fraction of the allocated funds - Shs204 million - has been committed to projects.

Basically, at least Shs120 million is sitting idle in the district account.

Mr Kamoti expressed frustration with the lack of transparency and cooperation from the accounting officer, saying the provided reports were insufficient in demonstrating the progress made with the allocated funds.

He criticised the accounting officer for being unresponsive and elusive, which he says has hampered the district leadership's ability to accurately assess the status of the funds and their utilisation.

Manjiya County MP John Baptist Nambeshe accused the accounting officer of furnishing the committee with a falsified bank statement.

Mr Nambeshe, who also chairs Bududa's roads committee, criticised the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Mr Esau Ekachalan, of alleged disregard of protocols and neglect of oversight role of the district roads committee.

"The committee is mandated to approve work plans and bills of quantities,” the legislator said.

However, verification of these claims was impeded by CAO Mr Ekachalan's absence.

The alleged elusive behaviour of the accounting officer and the allegations of mismanagement have prompted the involvement of the State House anti-corruption unit to investigate the claims.

Efforts by this news website to get Mr Ekachalan's side of the story were futile as the CAO was said to be on leave and unreachable by phone.

Ekachalan was implicated in the mismanagement of public land in Mbale during his tenure as CAO in the district.

He was transferred to Pallisa on demotion as deputy CAO.

In 2021, the Minister for Local Government Raphael Magyezi recommended Ekachalan's interdiction over his alleged role in mismanagement of public land in Mbale.

Manafwa

 

In Manafwa District, 25 out of the extensive 300-km road network, in addition to Khamitsaru bride, were earmarked for rehabilitation.

The works were officially flagged off by the roads committee including the two constituency members of parliament.

Mayenze-Syanemba (4km) road, last attended to in 2012, is complete.

However, works are yet to start at Khamitsaru bridge and other roads.

Stakeholders are suspicious that the district authorities are using delaying tactics till the end of the financial year after which accountability will be foiled.

Districts previously received less than Shs200 million for road maintenance from the Uganda Road Fund, which had not seen much impact.

Parliament advocated for enhancement of the budget with additional Shs1 billion for every district with the hope of enhancing the state of community access roads.

Stakeholders are calling for urgent intervention to address the crisis and ensure that the allocated funds are utilized efficiently and transparently for the benefit of Bududa District's development.

Without swift action, the district risks further delays in crucial infrastructure projects, hampering its socio-economic progress.

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