MPs Oppose Tolling Entebbe Express Highway

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Road toll on the Chinese-funded and built 55-kilometre, Ugsh1.7tr (Ksh49.4bn), Entebbe Expressway in Uganda will start operating in July 2020 as government seeks to raise money to finance public infrastructure projects. (Photo/Courtesy)

A section of members of the Physical Infrastructure Committee want tolling on the Kampala- Entebbe Express Highway to start after the 2021 general elections

Uganda acquired US 350 Million Dollars (approximately 1.2 Trillion shillings) from the Exim Bank of China to construct the Kampala-Expressway. The loan is expected to be repaid in the next 13 years. Government committed to repay the loan through tolling the 51.4km road.

However, by the time Uganda was supposed to start repaying the loan in July 2019, there was no law to enable implementation of the road tolling system. Therefore, government allocated shillings 101.8 billion in the 2019/2020 budget under Treasury Operations to repay the loan.

UNRA is expected to toll the road effective July 2020.

Bunyole West MP, James Waluswaka and Katikamu North MP, Eng. Abraham Byandala want UNRA to start tolling the road after the 2021 elections.

The MPs were reacting to a presentation from Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA on its performance in 2019/2020 and projected activities for 2020/2021 as provided for in the National Budget Framework Paper.

UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina told the committee that the authority is currently procuring services of a company that will operate and maintain the Kampala-Entebbe Express Way toll over a period of time.

Kagina explained that the procurement took longer because UNRA was preparing a comprehensive bidding document.

Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa, however, says that UNRA should have also considered local content in the search for a contractor to create jobs for Ugandans as well in the roads sub-sector. However, Kagina says that the tolling system encompasses collection and maintenance.

The committee also asked UNRA to explain whether or not there will be tolls on the Kampala-Jinja Express Way considering that the European Union, French Development Agency-AFD and African Development Bank-AfDB have issued loans to finance the same road.

The 95km road project cost is estimated at $1 Billion (approximately shillings 3.4 billion Trillion). The road will run from Lugogo, Kampala to the New Jinja Bridge.

Kagina says that the project has been structured for procurement and implementation as a Public-Private Partnership and be operated as a toll road.

Government fronted the road toll to demonstrate commitment to the project and also hedge against project risks such as demand during the life of the project.

Waluswaka and Busongora South, William Nzoghu say that it is unfair to toll a road that will pass through Eastern Uganda which has the highest poverty levels in the country.

However, Committee Chairperson, Robert Ssekitoleeko asked MPs to wait for the cabinet decision on whether or not to toll Kampala-Jinja Express Way.

However, Waluswaka, Okupa and Nzogu insist that the road should not be tolled and added that regardless of cabinet decision, all road tolls should be implemented after the 2021 elections.

Okupa says that the committee should adopt Parliament’s resolution passed on 20th September 2019 against tolling the Kampala-Jinja Expressway.

(URN)

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