The Ministry of Works and Transport has attributed slow progress in the implementation of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project to inadequate funds.
This, according to the ministry, has affected pre-construction activities such as land acquisition and compensation of Project-Affected-Persons (PAPs) at the first phase of the Malaba-Kampala SGR project.
This was revealed during a meeting between Works Ministry officials led by the Minister of Works and Transport, Gen. Katumba Wamala and the Committee on Physical Infrastructure chaired by Hon. Robert Kasolo (over the SGR project on Thursday, 09 January 2023.
Eng Alfred Obong, the Construction Manager, SGR told the committee that whereas the acquisition of right of way for the SGR project is ongoing, the process is “very slow” due to small budgets. “The plan right from 2016 has been to use at least 60 per cent of the releases to the project on compensation of PAPs. However, this has not been possible because of the reduction in the approved budgets and the subsequent releases to the project over the financial years,” Obong said.
The entire right of way from Tororo-Kampala was demarcated and gazetted in 2015 at a total land compensation cost estimate of Shs584.90 billion to be paid to 10,676 PAPs.
The SGR project is projected to reduce the cost of transport, enhance regional competitiveness and attract foreign direct investments which will lead to higher economic growth
However, for the last eight financial years, only Shs188.38 billion has been released for the SGR project out of the approved total budgets of Shs443.49 billion of which Shs99.34 billion was spent to pay PAPs.
According to Obong, acquisition of right of way remains a big obstacle in areas like Jinja but he is optimistic that it will be solved before the end of this financial year due to the ongoing reassessments and reevaluations.
Draft reports show that in Jinja alone, the ministry requires Shs115 billion to compensate 1,600 PAPs for the 5.64km main station and 10.05km corridor for the project.
The ministry is drumming up support from Parliament to appropriate adequate funds to ensure timely compensation of PAPs to pave way for the construction that is expected to start next financial year.
“Even if the construction will take time, we must have the right of way from at least Jinja up to Tororo so that the contractor is engaged as we finalise the last leg from Jinja to Kampala in terms of compensation,” Katumba Wamala said.
Mawokota South Member of Parliament, Hon. Yusuf Nsibambi urged the minister to ensure timelines are set and met to compensate PAPS. “We need to fix timelines on when these projects will be completed. You are giving us a lot of hope but we are not seeing the future…but indeed we have to join hands to ensure that funds are available,” Nsibambi said.
In 2008, the Heads of State of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan agreed to interconnect their respective countries with an SGR network under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) framework and this culminated in the signing of the SGR Protocol in 2014.
Uganda is in a phased manner expected to construct the 272km Malaba-Kampala route, 762km Tororo-Gulu-Nimule-Pakwach route, 383km Kampala-Bihanga-Kasese-Mpondwe route, and another 280km Bihanga-Mirama Hills-Muko route.
The SGR project is projected to reduce the cost of transport, enhance regional competitiveness and attract foreign direct investments which will lead to higher economic growth and faster transformation.