Move to mainstream UNRA to Works Ministry fails

Parliament has rejected a move to have the Uganda National Road Fund (UNRA) mainstreamed back to the Ministry of Works and Transport.
This followed a vote by the legislators against a bill, the Uganda National Roads Authority (Repeal) Bill, 2024 thought sought to have the functions of the agency revert to the mother ministry
The bill was moved by the sector minister, Gen. Katumba Wamala in a sitting of the House on Tuesday, 23  April 2024 chaired by the Speaker, Anita Among.

Katumba Wamala in his justification said that merging the agency into the ministry would lead to a saving of She39 billion in wages per month paid to the over 1500 staff.
“UNRA is in effect bigger than the ministry and this is an agency. The ministry staffing is 529 and the bill is Shs17 billion while UNRA’s bill is Shs71 billion, Katumba Wamala said.
Minister Katumba Wamala added that the parallel operations of UNRA and the Uganda Road Fund have caused division in the mother ministry which has affected direct command and control as well as effective delivery of services.
“The Ministry of Works generates policies and the boards of agencies generate policies, that is contradictory. These are two areas commanding in one area. We have three accounting officers in the same ministry; one for Road Fund, UNRA and one for the ministry; – that is wastage of resources”, he added.

He said that through rationalisation, the ministry willabsorb all UNRA staff under the Public Service terms and conditions, adding that the move will address the fear of unemployment that will be created by the merger.

However, the Chairperson of the Committee on Physical Infrastructure, Hon. Dan Kimosho who presented a report on the bill that rejected the mainstreaming.

Kimosho 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. said that
“The role of UNRA in the management, development and maintenance of the national roads infrastructure is critical to the performance of the works and transport sector and the country's development aspiration in light of Uganda being a transit and land-locked country”, he said.

The committee also argued that mainstreaming UNRA into the ministry will lead to the same challenges experienced in the past that led the same ministry to spearhead the formation of UNRA and would necessitate future reforms to recreate it,” the report added in part. .
“The committee is concerned that government 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,” Kimosho added.
On the move to have UNRA staff absorbed into the ministry, the committee noted that there is no guarantee of employment following the dissolution of the agency.

Members of Parliament supported the committee position of retaining the autonomy of UNRA arguing that the agency is doing good work.

“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,” said Rubabo County MP, Hon. Naboth Namanya.

Under section 6 of the UNRA Act (2006), UNRA is responsible for the management, development, and maintenance of the national roads and to advise government on policy matters concerning roads and to assist in the coordination and implementation of the policy relating to roads.

Following the vote on the bill, Speaker Among directed the minister to brig amendments on the 2006 UNRA Act that will see the minister have more powers of oversight in the sector.

The proposal for these amendments were earlier moved by Maracha County MP, Hon Denis Oguzu Lee and supported by Kampala Central MP, Hn. Muhammad Nsereko.