As Uganda prepares to host two crucial international events in December, all is not well as far as infrastructure developments are concerned.
Between December 4–9, Uganda will host the 19th Non-Aligned Movement Summit at Speke Resort Munyonyo and shortly afterwards will be the third South Summit of G77 countries + China from December 10 – 12 at the same venue.
The two events are expected to have more than 100 heads of state in attendance and are intended to showcase Uganda’s infrastructural development.
However, the race to complete the road network around Munyonyo is so far behind schedule that it has raised serious concern from government officials. At the centre of the concern is the standoff between the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) and the contractor China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).
Whereas Unra blames the contractor for the delays, sources say the contractor’s hands are tied because Unra is yet to pay them.
In September, 2020, Unra signed a deal with CSCEC dubbed ‘Design and build of the upgrading Najjanankumbi-Busabala road, Munyonyo spur interchange and service roads.’
But with less than six months to the summits, there is less than 30 per cent of progress made. In a communication to CSCEC dated March 14, Dan Iga, the acting head Road Development at Unra, noted that the contractor is behind schedule on most of the structural works and invited the contractor’s top management for a meeting to forge a way ensuring timely completion of the work.
The Unra letter followed an earlier warning letter from Lucy Nakyobe, the head of Public Service and secretary to Cabinet, who warned Allen Kagina, the Unra executive director, about the delays.
“In one of the meetings held with the ministry of Local Government and accounting officers of Wakiso and surrounding town councils, it was decided that a meeting is convened with you to discuss the status of key roads in the NAM and G77 summits that fall under your jurisdiction,” she noted.
According to a source that attended the meeting on March 16, Unra was blamed for poor payment modalities to CSCEC.
“It is clear there is poor planning on the project and it will be a shame if more than 100 heads of state to find the place still under construction,” the source said.
“We are sleep-walking into an international embarrassment because the contractor doesn’t even have fuel for the machines while some sites have been abandoned by unpaid staff.”
Reached out for a comment, Allan Sempebwa, the Unra publicist, said they are not upgrading Najjanankumbi-Busabala road because of the summits.
“It is part of a government program implementing it under National Development Plan (NDP) III. The project was given three years. We have not delayed; we are working in time and undertaking all the necessary activities to complete the project,” he said.
Regarding the delayed release of funds to the contractor, Sempebwa said Unra does not disburse all the money for the project at once. “The contractor is paid based on their performance on the project. Whenever they complete a phase they are free to ask for funding for another phase,” he said.