During the plenary session chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, MPs debated the National Economy committee report that had okayed borrowing from Africa Development Bank ADB a sum of 329 billion Shillings and another 216 billion Shillings for the project.
Legislators have halted the approval of 545 billion Shillings loan meant to finance the construction of Busega-Mpigi Express Highway.
During the plenary session chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, MPs debated the National Economy committee report that had okayed borrowing from Africa Development Bank (ADB) a sum of 329 billion Shillings and another 216 billion Shillings for the project.
While tabling the report, committee chairperson Syda Bbumba told parliament that the existing Busega – Mpigi road is currently a two lane tarmac road and highly congested especially at Busega with over 26,000 vehicles per day.
She further noted that the road links Uganda to Rwanda and Tanzania and will entail the construction of a new four – lane express highway covering 23.7 kilometres plus 20 kilometres of two lanes or service roads. The road will also have 12 kilometres of interchange loops and 8 kilometres of auxiliary lanes.
“This road is a vital missing link which will support the regional integration objective of partner states of the East African Community (EAC) and Great Lakes region," Bbumba justified the need for a loan.
Bbumba also revealed that the Government of Uganda is to finance 21.4 percent of the total project equivalent to 148 billion Shillings bringing the total project cost to 653 billion Shillings.
MPs oppose the loan
Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu, who is also the chairperson of parliament's committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) advised parliament not to hurriedly approve the loan. He tabled documents saying that what his committee has discovered on the road sector in the last few months leaves a lot to be desired.
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COSASE oversees the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA).
One of the documents Katuntu read was a letter dated April 18th from the then works minister John Byabagambi addressed to UNRA Executive Director Allen Kagina. In the letter, the minister notified Kagina of a meeting held in State House and chaired by President Yoweri Museveni that resolved that the Kibuye-Busega project revert to Exim Bank of China under the upgrading of Kampala-Entebbe Express Highway.
The letter instructed Kagina to start processing the addendum to the contract to incorporate the construction and upgrading of Kibuye – Busega road.
“There is a different project, financed differently and procurement has gone on, which is very irregular because it is the one we are now considering. Now the minister is instructing UNRA to amend the other contract and add on this particular project against rules of procurement,” MP Katuntu reported to parliament.
Katuntu pleaded with fellow legislators not to rush through the process of approving loans to the road sector. He asked the Speaker to accord his committee time next week to table a report on which parliament will pronounce itself before any other loan is approved.
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Katuntu's revelations prompted Kabula County MP James Kakooza to advise that if parliament is to avoid abuse of loans passed, the National Economy committee should go back and reconsider facts tabled.
Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba asked the National Committee Chairperson Syda Bbumba to react to facts tabled before parliament.
In defence of her committee report, Bbumba told parliament that the sources of funding for the loans being requested for are different and the ADB procurement methods are different from those of Exim Bank.
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Kiira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda told parliament that before another loan is approved, there is a need to re-examine the expenditure in the road sector.
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Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda tried to defend the need for a loan in vain. He noted that issues between UNRA and the minister as presented to parliament by MP Katuntu had long beed resolved.
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Speaker Kadaga Rules
Kadaga deferred the debate until the committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) tables its report on the on the floor of parliament.