Political interference derailing USMID project, district bosses say

KAMPALA, December 13, 2024 – As the World Bank-funded infrastructure development project, USMID, winds up, officials from benefiting districts and cities have asked for Parliament’s intervention to stop political interference, saying it is affecting its implementation.

The Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development [USMID] Project, with a credit estimated at US$ 150 million, aimed at expanding urban infrastructure such as roads, street lights, drainage systems, markets, and bus terminals in 14 municipal local governments and strengthening them to generate local revenue.

While appearing before the House Committee on Physical Infrastructure on Tuesday, officials from Ntungamo, Mbarara, and Kabale districts expressed concern that the project expires on December 30, 2023 but works remain incomplete.

The officials attributed the delays to political interference and the contractor’s incompetence.

“We were summoned to Kampala for a meeting with the Minister for Lands, who told us that the President was unhappy. In that meeting we were being pressurized to extend the contract, but we did not agree to it; as a result, before I reached home, I received news that the Inspector General of Government [IGG] had issued strict directives,” said Sentaro Byamugisha, the Kabale Municipality mayor.

Byamugisha said the IGG’s directives were harsh as others were outside the legal provisions in the contract signed between the municipality and the contractor.

“In her letter, the IGG clearly stated that the contract had expired, but she still went ahead and issued a directive that we extend the contract for two months,” said Byamugisha.

The district was also forced to continue paying the contractor after the expiry of the contract, before they could secure an extension, which Byamugisha said was illegal.

The Committee learnt that the Equal Opportunities Commission [EOC]summoned town clerks from the said districts and made rulings, which Byamugisha said were aimed at intimidating them to implement non-contractual agreements.

“Our powers to manage this contract were usurped; we are implementing directives, not the contract agreement that we signed between Kabale Municipality and Multiplex,” he said.

The officials complained about Multiplex company, which they accused of incompetence and having no interest in completing the project.

MPs recently visited the three municipalities and noted that some of the roads were already in bad shape even before the project’s completion.

“In Ntungamo, we saw that roads were cracked before the project is handed over. The road was reduced from 7 kilometres to 6km leaving no space for parking which shop owners are disgruntled with,” said Acrobert Kiiza, the Bughendera County legislator

The Bukanga North MP, Nathan Byanyima said the drainage system in Mbarara City was poorly done, and that water is channeled into a primary school and a private home.

Ik County MP, Hillary Lokwang observed that the three Mbarara City, Ntungamo Municipality, and Kabale Municipality are the worst performers in the USMID Project, saying other municipalities have good quality roads and facilities such as street lights.

The committee recommended the need for Parliament to engage in discussions, that would forge away for completion of pending works after the World Bank loan expire this December.

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