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Works Minister Gen Katumba Wamala on the floor of Parliament

UNRA Temporarily Saved from Rationalization following Spirited fight from MPs

by Max Pat
posted onApril 23, 2024

Members of Parliament on Tuesday put up a spirited debate to save Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) from rationalisation.

During plenary sitting chaired by Speaker Anita Among, the Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala tabled the UNRA Act (Repeal) Bill, 2024 that seeks to dissolve UNRA and have its functions mainstreamed to the Ministry.

In justification, Minister Wamala said UNRA runs a bloated staffing level and wage bill of Shs71 billion against the Ministry’s wage bill of Shs17 billion.

“We want to eliminate bloated structures in government. Agencies operate bloated structures which are not aligned to the mandate and are a drain to the treasury,” he said.

However, the report of the Committee on Physical Infrastructure as presented by Hon Dan Kimosho, the committee chairperson defended UNRA’s autonomy, saying the agency has for the last 15 years, constructed 3,686km of new paved national roads, representing an average of 230km per year.

 “The Committee is concerned that government is likely to suffer a setback of delayed project implementation and completion of important and strategic road infrastructure because of the shocks that come with the rationalization process of UNRA,” Kimosho said.

The Committee noted that in 2022 and 2023, UNRA collected total toll revenue of Shs75bn. “This revenue is projected to increase upon completion of Busega-Mpigi and Kampala-Jinja Expressways among others,” Kimosho added.

The Committee on Physical Infrastructure noted there is no guarantee of employment following the repeal of the UNRA, Act, 2006 and subsequent dissolution of UNRA. Clause 6 (3) of the UNRA (Repeal) Bill 2024 says the staff of UNRA may be redeployed to serve in the Public Service subject to the availability of positions.

During the debate, Members of Parliament widely supported the committee's report against the bill, proposing that the road agency be maintained as a semi-autonomous agency.

“Let UNRA stay because it is handling critical work. If it wasn’t for UNRA, we who come from Western Uganda would be cut off,” Hon. Naboth Namanya (Rubabo County) said.

Kampala Central MP, Muhammed Nsereko proposed that ministers be given some powers to superintend over the heads of agencies who have become obstinate and unaccountable to the mother ministries.

In the end, the House collapsed the bill as Minister Wamala said he would take into consideration the views of the Members and re-table the bill with new amendments.

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