More than eight months after Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) authorities announced the commencement of a major road reconstruction project to tackle the city’s deteriorating roads, progress has been painfully slow, leading to growing frustration among commuters and vehicle owners.
The ambitious project, known as the Kampala City Roads Rehabilitation Project (KCRRP), aimed to address the deteriorating state of 31 major roads within the city with works lined up to start between February and September.
However, a recent visit to these roads reveals that works have barely begun. Instead, KCCA has resorted to what they term as “forward maintenance,” a temporary patching method that has left a trail of disappointment among road users.
The hasty and haphazard patching efforts have resulted in uneven surfaces, with potholes reappearing shortly after repairs. As a result, commuters now navigate through a labyrinth of potholes and bumpy terrain, making each journey an arduous ordeal.
One major concern arising from this prolonged delay is the increased wear and tear on vehicles and motorcycles, which has translated in higher maintenance costs for car owners. Beyond that, the persisting road problems have contributed to traffic congestion, accidents, and safety hazards.
The Africa Development Bank (AfDB), which is financing the KCRRP, acknowledged the delays that have hampered the project. However, they remain optimistic about its progress.
Mr George Adongo Makajuma, a principal engineer at AfDB, stated, “Our perspective is informed by our recent supervision mission held in May and recent progress reporting by KCCA. Overall, we believe the project is on course despite having suffered some delays related to the Covid-19 pandemic that happened just when the procurement activities were being rolled out.”
Mr Makajuma shared a detailed update.
The KCRRP was approved on November 13, 2019, but the project was only signed off almost two years later on May 11, 2021. According to information on the AfDB website, the project is scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2026, with the last disbursement of funds scheduled by December 31, 2024.
Despite the frustration and inconvenience faced by road users, especially in Kampala, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has reason to celebrate.
According to the latest URA newsletter, the wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, and motorcycles sector have consistently topped year-on-year sectoral revenue collections for the last three financial years. In the Financial Year 2021/2022, this sector contributed Shs6.2 trillion followed by manufacturing with Shs4.9 trillion and financial and insurance services with Shs2.3 trillion.
As the city awaits tangible progress on the road reconstruction project, commuters and businesses continue to bear the brunt of the deteriorating road conditions, with no immediate relief in sight.
During a press conference at Parliament yesterday, Members of Parliament also expressed their displeasure over the state of roads, especially in Kampala.
Mr Abubakar Kawalya, the shadow minister for KCCA, who is also the Rubaga North MP, said: “We are ready to mobilise the people who reside in Kampala, and indeed we shall be able to show our disatisifacation about the state of affairs when it comes to our roads in the city. We can’t sit back and see our people dying.”
Mr Allan Ssewanyana, the Makindye West MP, said they have given KCCA an ultimatum of two weeks to address the situation.
“Instead of spending too much on luxuries like travels abroad, throwing parties everywhere, they should construct roads. What we want to see as leaders of Kampala is action to be taken,” he said.
Mr Ronald Balimwezo, the chairperson of the Roads committee at KCCA, who is also the MP of Nakawa East, said: “Kampala has over 2,100kms of road network, only 654kms are paved. And 70 percent of the paved roads have outlived their lifespan, which means they need to be revamped. They need to be maintained [but] our maintenance culture is the poorest in East Africa.”
When we contacted KCCA yesterday, its spokesperson Simon Kasatye said he would send an email with detailed response, which he had not done by press time.
Cost of bad roads
Mr Shafic Mutebe, a mechanic, says most of the cars in the bonds have original parts, but what mostly spoils the car parts are the bad roads. Potholes, rough surfaces, and debris on the roads in the city that are in a bad condition damage tires, suspension systems, and other vehicle components, resulting in higher repair and maintenance expenses for residents.
The roads in the city, as well as the avenues to people’s homes, which are in a bad shape, keep battering cars. On average, Mutebe says, imported used cars in bonds have a mileage of about 80,000kms. He adds: “If we had very good roads, bushes, shock absorbers, and other parts can last for another 80,000kms to 100,000kms, yet car parts get spoilt after 2,000kms to 16,000kms.”
Whether one is driving in the city or upcountry, he says, potholes can do serious harm to your car. He further reveals that some of the most affected parts are the electronic gearing column, shock absorbers, suspension plate, bushes, zinc, and control arm bushes, among others.
Some of the overlooked parts that people have to keep fixing or replacing because of the bad state of the roads are the tyres. These, he says, absorb the first impact of the potholes and end up breaking the interior structure, tearing the side, or both.
The massively potholed roads in the city also affect the suspension of the motor vehicles, with parts such as the suspension arm, tire rod, and alignment rendered inoperative.
Experts we spoke to also cite an overlooked cost of alignment. Hitting potholes risks vehicles becoming misaligned, which causes wear and tear and poor fuel efficiency.
Mr Solomon Kisakye Balyejjusa, a legal officer at Women’s Pro Bono Initiative, says delays and time wastage dodging potholes and traffic are downright costly.
“[I am] not really fixing it more often but there are fixes that have to be done. Before, there weren’t delays, and traffic was never that much. Kinawataka road potholes are a ticket to quicken labour pains for delivery. I would spend Shs150,000, but now I spend Shs250,000 on shocks, especially, and bushes,” he told Saturday Monitor.
Mr Tovius Omongot, a student, describes boda bodas and the potholes as the worst experience on the city roads.
“Yes, I buy shocks all the time, then traffic jam and floods. For my car, I buy shocks at Shs150,000 each, and I buy four every month or two,” he says.
A motorist, who requested not to be named, says he is constantly worried about potholes. “You don’t know which roads are safe. Sometimes you are even worried to lend out your car because you don’t know if the person you are lending will handle it with proper care like you do,” he says.
“When driving, you must have emergency money on you because you never know which pothole you will get stuck into or which car spare parts will be damaged. [If] you get stuck in a pothole and you don’t have money on you that is a nightmare because the boys going to dig your car out of that pothole will ask for money.
“It is even worse if you have a medical condition. You have to get ready to pay extra cash for medication. Sometimes, you are trying to dodge traffic, and then you pass on the sides, a traffic police officer gets you. You must have Shs70,000 or more to splash so your car is not [impounded],” the motorist says.
Besides the cost of the shock absorbers, the motorists say they also have to spend on tyres and rims when they get damaged.
“And the smallest amount of money you can spend on a pair of tyres is Shs700,000. Also brakes, sudden braking affects a car. There are places you don’t want to pass, places like Industrial Area, some places in Makindye. Now Salama road, even boda guys don’t want to go there. You see, they even laugh at you when you try to bargain,” he says.
Africa Development Bank Group explains
The Kampala City Roads Rehabilitation Project comprises six components: civil works, project management, supply of goods, institutional capacity building, women and youth skills development and compensation and resettlement.
It involves construction of 70kms of roads, complete with associated drainage works, including improvement to 22 traffic junctions, 134km of Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) facilities, commercial vehicles parking places, bus depots, 30 public toilets, six (6) markets along project roads for women vendors, installation of 1,600 energy efficient streetlights, and tree planting.
The civil works were packaged under five Lots (1-5) while the construction supervision services were packaged under two packages. (Package 1 for the supervision of Lots 1 and 2 and Package 2 for the supervision of Lots 3, 4 and 5).
Four of the Five works contracts (Lot 1,2 3 and 5) were awarded by the end of 2022, to M/S China State Construction Corporation Ltd, Zhejiang Communications Construction Group Co. Ltd. (ZCCC), China Railway 18th Bureau Group Co. Ltd and China Communication Corporation Company (CCCC) respectively.
Advance payment, which is a condition for commencement, was made to the Lot 1 and 2 contractors in December 2022 while that for Lot 3 and 5 contractors was made in January 2023. Lot 4 greatly suffered delays in procurement and was finally awarded in June. Processing of advance for Lot 4 works is ongoing.
Civil works for Lot 1 and Lot 2 commenced on December 5, 2022 while Lot 3 and 5 commenced on April 18 with a mobilisation period of three months that ended on July 17.
The commencement of works on Lot 3 and Lot 5 was delayed by the slow procurement of the package 2 consultant who was expected to conduct a design update prior to commencement of works and supervise the works. The Package 2 consultant commenced the design review on March 27 and the supervision on April 18.
Whereas the standard practice is to have the design update three months prior to commencement, the delays encountered in the procurement of the Package 2 consultant and the need to recover lost time resulted in having the two phases running, simultaneously.
Despite the procurement related challenges experienced in the early stages, the project is gaining momentum. The Lot 1 Contractor M/S China State Construction Corporation has completed one (Kabega Road) out of the seven road sections and is expected to also complete Kigala Road before the end of the Year. Works are also on-going along Old Mubende and Kayembe bridge.
Works under Lot 2 works are ongoing on Port bell road. The progress of works has been slowed down by several utilities within the road corridor and the heavy traffic on the road. Following the issuance of a permit for night works by Nema, the progress of works on Lot 2 is expected to improve significantly.
Following the recently completed mobilisation period, Lot 3 works are ongoing on Ssuna 1 Road while Lot 5 works are ongoing on Sentema 1 and Mugema roads.
The contractors are continuing with routine maintenance to keep the roads passable where permanent works have not started motorable.
The African development bank undertakes supervision implementation missions bi-annually and the project performance was rated satisfactory, during the most recently concluded supervision mission. Discussion on KCRRP completion timelines shall begin after midterm review of the project in 2024.
Whereas the funding was approved in November 2019, ratification of the loan facility delayed, which held back procurement activities by almost two years from 2020 to late 2021.
KCCA roads lined up for reconstruction under KCRRP
|Muteesa 1 Road||Lubaga||Feb.2023||2.02|
|Old Mubende Road||Lubaga||Feb.2023||2.1|
|Canon Apollo Kivebula||Lubaga||Feb.2023||0.3|
|Kasubi Northern bypass||Lubaga||Feb.2023||2.4|
|Ssuna 1 Road||Makindye||Feb.2023||4.16|
|Ssuna 2 Road||Makindye||Feb.2023||2.58|
|Old Portbell/Spring roads||Nakawa||Feb.2023||3.46|
|Kyebando Ring Road||Central||Sept.2023||1.8|
|Kisasi 2 Road||Kawempe||Sept.2023||2.14|