At the centenary celebrations held in 2011, the old students of the Busoga College, Mwiri school asked President Yoweri Museveni, who had presided over as the chief guest, to help pave the road, this presidential pledge was realized in July 2018 and the work should have been concluded in January 2019, but have stretched on since then, with the new end date being October 25, 2019, a time overrun provided for in the contract. The new road has exacerbated the challenges that come with high elevation, rocky grounds and high rainfall.
The 4.9km stretch of road linking Busoga College Mwiri to the Jinja – Malaba highway has been under construction Multiplex Ltd. in two phases. The first phase, a 3.1km stretch is 72% done and is expected to cost sh4.4b. The remaining 1.8km stretch linking to the main road will be built during this financial year.
CoST Uganda assessed this project under its second assurance process. The report revealed that;
The report was recently disseminated to the citizens and they were given an opportunity to interact with the Ministry of Works and Transport. In this article we share the experiences and voices of citizens and other stakeholders about the project;
According to Eng. Rutaagi Principal Civil Engineer with Ministry of Works and Transport, the Mwiri Access Road was progressing normally and plans had been underway to ensure that it was delivered with as minimal disturbance to the community or the environment. “We had no money to build the entire road, that is why we decided to build it in phases, but the funds for the lower section of the road have been budgeted for and will be released this financial year, that road will all be paved soon,” said Eng. Joseph Rutaagi, the Principal Roads Engineer at the Ministry of Works and Transport.
The Baraza was attended by CoST Uganda Multi-Stakeholder Group Chairperson Hon. Nathan Byanyima, in his remarks he expressed the need for disclosure on site. “How many of you know the total distance of the Mwiri Access Road and the amount of money it has cost to build it? Do you know who the contractor is and how long the works on this road should have taken?” Asked Nathan. The questions were asked in reference to the absence of an information wall detailing the basic information regarding the Mwiri Access Road in Jinja district. The lack of an information wall was one of the things highlighted during the Second Assurance Process that the project was subjected to.
As things stood then, the project was being delivered like any other private project. Speaking at the engagement, the CoST MSG Chairperson called on all stakeholders to embrace transparency and accountability in the delivery of this and many other infrastructure projects; “Today, if you cannot bring your child to Busoga College Mwiri, you can take them to another private school. If your mother is unwell and you need to get her to a medical facility, you can take her to a government hospital or a private hospital, but when have you had the option to choose between public and private when it comes to roads?” asked Byanyima. He also wondered why transparency and openness had become such a rare commodity at the time.
However, the community has a different take on the matter, they came with the desire to know more about the project, express their appreciation for increased accessibility, express their concerns, and demand for involvement. Some voices from the citizens/beneficiaries of the project in question had some commentaries to say;
“This is our road, let’s take keen interest in it, it has added value to some of us who have land along it and eased transport, those of you who know the old Mwiri and how difficult it was to come to the school after rains have fallen will know what I am talking about. What I do not understand is why the contractor channeled all the run-off water into our fields,” said chairman LC1 one of the residents.
Busoga College Mwiri is, like a number of traditional Churches of Uganda schools, built on top of a hill. The Mwiri hill is the highest point between Jinja and Tororo, standing at over 1800 metres above sea-level. The average temperatures are 18 degrees Celsius with highs of 25 degrees and rain falls quite often, this, coupled with other challenges, had made the road to the school impossible.
In his remarks, the contractor from Multiplex he noted that; the designs for the road provide for water run-offs. However, the residents say they were not consulted before the water was channeled into their fields. Something Eng. Richard Kyobe, the Contract Manager of the Mwiri Access Road works from Multiplex Ltd, says was provided for in the design works. He added that “We received the site from the Ministry of Works and Transport, we followed those designs and where we put a water outlet was where it was provided for in the plan. Some members here have suggested that we could carry the water over long distances until it reaches a safe exit, but this has adverse effects on the road,” The contract manager Multiplex Ltd explained.
The challenge of the run-off water is so enormous that when the residents of the area heard there was going to be a Baraza to discuss the progress of the road, they invited all their neighbors. At least residents from three downstream villages showed up for the meeting. They all wanted to know what was being done for the water coming from Mwiri hill. A look at their fields shows that the problem is big. Some gardens have been abandoned as the points where the water hits the soil have become some 4 feet deep gullies, several meters wide.
These concerns would not have occurred and would have been deterred if only, an Environmental Impact Assessment was done in the early stages of the project as revealed by the CoST Assurance report. Nonetheless, there is a ray of hope as noted from the Ministry of Works and Transport who revealed that an Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted and a report would be disseminated to the citizens upon quest by CoST. It is important to note that the ministry commissioned the study after the CoST report was launched in November 2018.
Compensation, Uganda’s deepest hard rock to infrastructure delivery;
The compensation challenge does not only occur in high income projects, the low income projects seen as small projects could actually result into immense challenges to the government agencies. From our experience, agencies underrate small projects but these make small bundles of challenges in the long run once they are not given due attention.
The community along Busoga Mwiri Access road wondered since there was no involvement in the early stages of the project, there were concerns relating to how those whose land was affected would be compensated; an interesting thing happened to this road. The people close to the top of the hill including the school opted to give land freely on which the road would be built, but the people downstream were never consulted on this matter. They have been expecting a compensation that was waived right from the start. “I cannot believe what I am hearing, I have lost gardens of crops due to this road construction, the trucks that ferried the soils destroyed all the crops and we are preparing to take legal action against the ministry and the construction company,” said Buluma Christopher a resident and Chairman LC1 of Wairaka B village. Other villages affected are Wairaka Central and Kakira Town Council.
Kakira Town Council is in charge of the road and upon completion will be handed over to Kakira, but they had not been involved in any activity concerning the road. They had never interfaced with the road contractors and had never been in the same room with officials from the Ministry of Works and Transport to discuss this road project until CoST organized the Baraza. How they wished the Baraza was held in the early stages of the project, nonetheless, it came at the right time since the project was ongoing.
“We are grateful to CoST Uganda. I wish I knew the brain behind bringing this initiative to Uganda, I would personally look for them so that I can say thank you for their insightfulness,” said Davis Bulaabe, the Senior Assistant Town Clerk for Kakira. Bulaabe added that: “Hon Byanyima explained CoST and what it stands for, what stood out for me was the concept of disclosure. Had we been sharing information as stakeholders of this project right from the start, all the issues mentioned here would have been resolved a long time ago, to me they are things that could have been sorted out simply by talking to each other. There is no need to hold on to information with the hope that the people we are working for will be appreciative, they will not.”
Though behind schedule, project progress is at 72% as of 13th July 2019 after an extension of 15 weeks from January and ended April 2019. By 13th July 2019, works had not been completed due to delays on the side of the contractor (poor planning). Do you think the remaining work will be completed in only two remaining months, this is the question we came back asking the Ministry and we were assured of more efforts to be put into timely completion!
CoST-Uganda Initiative has taken strides as a result of the good collaboration and partnership between the Ministry of Works and Transport, the champion. We also appreciate the work done by all stake holders involved in the Busoga College Mwiri access Road project such as the Kakira Town council, Jinja District local government, UMEME, Jinja National water and sewerage corporation, Busoga College Mwiri Community and the entire surrounding community as a whole.
Moving forward, the access road is built on a hill where water run offs are almost inevitable, but the contractor together with Kakira Town council have been called upon to sit together and harmonize the issues. Also for the next phase of constructing the remaining 1.8km from the junction to Mwiri primary school, the community requested the Ministry of Works and Kakira town council to consult all the concerned parties to avoid misunderstandings in the long run.
CoST was urged to continue meeting with the contractors, consultants and other professional bodies alongside meetings with the citizens. We call upon the Ministry of Works and Transport to improve their coordination and information flow with the local governments to avoid demonstrations and challenges with the citizens. CoST also encourage other Ministries to coordinate and work with other government institutions and structures to promote transparency and accountability.