Uganda infrastructure projects have 'no value for taxpayer money'

Uganda's Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda. File Photo | Morgan Mbabazi | NMG

What you need to know:

  • WB country manager warns of harder economic times unless Uganda’s infrastructure generates revenue.
  • Kampala has borrowed billions of dollars to finance several mega projects.
  • World Bank official also says Uganda is headed towards a population explosion despite economy decelerating.

The World Bank has poured cold water on Uganda’s infrastructure development saying it is wasted investment that is not helping the economy grow.

It warned of harder economic times unless something is done to make the country’s mega projects generate revenue from the public investments that Kampala has borrowed billions of dollars to finance.

“Why do projects suddenly appear yet they have inadequate justification? Contracting procedures based on poor feasibility studies coupled with inadequate supervision lead to large cost overruns and poor quality work. That’s not good value for taxpayer’s money and certainly not the kind of debt anyone would like their children to repay,” World Bank Uganda Country Manager Christina Malmberg Calvo said at the fourth national partnership forum last week.

The forum is a platform where all development partners and government come together to discuss and review progress in national development programmes that have been financed using loans from different creditors outside the country.

'No value for money'

Ms Calvo said the World Bank is fully aware of Uganda’s decelerated economic growth over the last couple of years and shares concerns of Ugandans because most of the infrastructure programmes government has implemented are not delivering value for money.

“Uganda is not reaping the returns on its public investment programme — you get less than one shilling for every shilling you invest. You should be getting four, five or six times your investment. What’s wrong? The public investment process is not working as it should be,” Ms Calvo said.

She also expressed concern that Uganda is headed towards a population explosion of 80 million people by 2040 yet the economy was decelerating.

The country's Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who chaired the meeting, said the forum helps both government and donors to review progress against targets and set new ones for the coming year.

The forum comprises ministries, departments and agencies’ heads and development partners.

In the 2016/17 national budget speech, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija announced that Uganda was prioritising funding to strategic infrastructure projects in the transport, energy and ICT sectors.

He reasoned that their development contributed immensely to increased productivity by facilitating connectivity and easing movement of goods.

Some of the projects include:

$220 million for the China Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park

$3,827.54 billion for nationwide transport infrastructure

$325 million for Entebbe International Airport upgrade

$3.55 billion for a pipeline and access roads to facilitate oil production

Report by Stephen Otage

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