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8

Sunday VISION, August 27, 2017


THE BIG STORY
www.newvision.co.ug

HIGH COST OF ROADS IN UGANDA: WOULD LESS PRICING


Why is it more expensive to
In the rst part of this series,
the informal nature of the local
construction sector was largely
blamed as a big contributor to
the escalating infrastructural
costs. In todays part, we look
at the impact of the cost of raw

build roads in this country?


materials on the overall unit cost
of projects. More stakeholders
continue to share their views

I
n Uganda, there are peculiar
things that affect the final
unit cost of our infrastructural
projects, making them
appear more expensive than
in countries like Kenya and
Ethiopia. Key among them is the
cost of the raw materials used in
these projects, says a key figure on
the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)
project that prefers anonymity.
More so, the commission
of inquiry into allegations of
mismanagement, abuse of office
and corrupt practices in the Uganda
National Roads Authority (UNRA)
also, as part of its methodology,
carried out a study on the unit cost
of road construction with special
focus on bill of quantities items that
consume the biggest portion of the
budgets.
Chaired by Justice Catherine
Bamugemereire, the commission
established that the unit cost of
Asphalt Concrete (AC) in Uganda
is 19% higher than the unit cost in
Rwanda and 52% higher than the
corresponding cost in Ethiopia. The
cost of base course of crushed stone
or natural gravel in Uganda is 6%
higher than the cost in Rwanda and
130% higher than the corresponding
cost in Ethiopia.
The cost of sub-base in Uganda is
221% higher than the corresponding
cost in Rwanda, while for sub-grade
layers out of selected material; the
cost in Uganda is 69% higher than
the cost in Rwanda and 125% higher A road under construction in eastern Uganda. Compared to other countries, some construction material in Uganda is higher by 100%
than the corresponding cost in
Ethiopia, the commissions report one needs to use the Engineering land ownership is very tricky and this

SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT
read. build-up cost method. With this, leads to delays that attract overriding
Rock excavation in Uganda is one looks at the quantities of raw costs that have an effect on the unit
more costly by 19% than in Rwanda. materials required vis-a-vis their unit rate, he says.
Compacted fill material in Uganda is costs. Lack of equipment also
172% more costly than in Rwanda,
68% higher than in Ethiopia and
BY RONALD MUGABE OTHER FACTORS
contributes to the countrys problem
of high unit costs. Most of the
15% higher than in Namibia. Sam Mutabaazi, the executive companies dont have adequate
Double Bituminous Surface by the 830,000 tonnes we need steel and other machinery to sites, director of Uganda Road Sector equipment. In most cases, you
Treatment (DBST) or surface in comparison to Kenyas and the source stated. Support Initiative (URSSI), states find that some of these companies
dressing in Uganda is 133% higher Tanzanias. It amounts to a huge More so, Uganda spends about that there are several other factors have worn out equipment or they
in cost than in Namibia, 71% higher difference in figures, the source $700 per tonne of steel yet Kenya that have kept the problem of high completely dont have. It should
than in Ethiopia and 61% higher says. spends about $550 per tonne; infrastructural unit costs alive. be noted that most of these
than in the neighbouring Rwanda. Putting fuel as another key implying a cost difference of about Subcontracting is also another machines are very expensive, hence
Prime coat application (MC30 resource into perspective, the source $150 per tonne. This, according often overlooked challenge. unaffordable to some companies,
cutback bitumen) in Uganda is 27% explains that fuel in most of the to the source, is largely Sometimes, you have contractors Mutabaazi adds.
higher in cost than in Rwanda, 11% neighbouring states, especially those overlooked by subcontracting other companies and The high unit cost of Ugandas
higher than in Ethiopia and 29% with access to the coast, is cheaper those making in the process, some conflicts arise. infrastructural projects has a lot to do
higher than in Namibia. Grouted compared to Uganda. comparisons. These are usually due to absence of with politics too. According to several
stone pitching in Uganda is 196% The difference per litre might The source clear guidelines, he says. experts, politics plays a huge role
higher than the corresponding seem insignificant but when reveals that He gives the example of the in determining how the projects are
cost in Ethiopia. All the sampled multiplied by to make fair Katosi road scandal where Eutaw delivered. Mutabaazi argues that if
comparative bill items reveal that the the millions of comparisons, subcontracted Chinese firm, CICO. there was institutional independence,
unit costs are higher in Uganda than litres required I think Kaginas UNRA has tried to we would have very good projects
in any of the three countries, that is to complete the deal with this issue of subcontracting being delivered and in time.
Rwanda, Ethiopia and Namibia. job, it becomes but if the subcontracting is not done Government has shown interest
The SGR source argues that before evident we spend in very clear terms, then conflicts in investing in infrastructural
people start raising dust over the cost a lot more money. like the one on Katosi will continue development, but has not allowed
of Ugandas part of the SGR, they That affects a to lead to heavy loss money, the responsible institutions to
should put into consideration the lot of prices in Mutabaazi advises. do their work professionally and
impact of the unit costs of these raw the construction He also mentions that the long independently. If you look at a
materials on the final project costs. process if you time taken to compensate project country like Ethiopia which is a
For example, the cost of cement put into affected persons also escalates model in the region and Africa
in Uganda is around $180 per tonne consideration unit costs. It is public knowledge as a whole, they have allowed
yet in Kenya it is at $120 per tonne how much that most of our projects involve their institutions to grow and their
and $100 per tonne in Tanzania. fuel is needed compensation and this is a very personnel to acquire skills. We
You can imagine the difference in to deliver sand, complicated process. It involves a actually are hiring their engineers
cost when you multiply that cost gravel, cement, Bamugemereire lot of money and sometimes, the here as consultants on our projects,
THE BIG STORY
www.newvision.co.ug
9
Sunday VISION, August 27, 2017

OF RAW MATERIALS LIKE CEMENT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?


KAGINA SPEAKS OUT
including the Entebbe expressway, he
reveals.
Here, big projects are manned by
foreigners but in Ethiopia, they have
passed that stage because the country
invested in their people and institutions.
For us to get good results from our
The way Kapchorwa. Actually it
starts from Kitale in Kenya
and is going up to Rwanda.

houses are
projects, UNRA has to be given breathing It is funded by the AfDB,
space to do its work without political Kagina explains.
interference, he adds. She argues that the

different is
Mutabaazi points out that there is Uganda part of the road
a lot of opaqueness in awarding road is a completely new
construction deals. For instance, the road a new alignment
$476m on the 52km Entebbe expressway

the same way


altogether. In Rwanda,
which is just a two lane dual-carriage it is rehabilitation of an
is too expensive that the price simply existing road. So, if you
doesnt make any sense. Reports have compare Rwandas costs
often emerged that the price of the
expressway was inflated by $16m (about
Shs55b), he says.
According to Mutabaazi, the only
roads are and Ugandas costs, they
are going to be hugely
different, Kagina states.
She adds that in such
genuine argument usually given is that UNRA executive director circumstances where the
land here belongs to the people while Allen Kagina partly public needs an answer
in countries like Rwanda it belongs to attributes the high unit to the huge difference
government. It has also been argued cost to the fact that roads in unit costs, UNRA has
that contractors form cartels use such are different in type. established a unit called
networks to demand huge moneys. She argues that making the Cost Estimation
That is known, though it might not be a comparisons of Ugandas Unit. According to her,
major contributor to high unit costs. That roads to the others in the this unit is going to be
majorly involves the Chinese companies region can be misleading working together with the
which appear to be different but somehow since, according to her, consultants to ascertain
are connected. I think it all goes down roads can never be the what is optimal for
to the fact that government and UNRA The Northern Bypass at the Namboole roundabout same. Uganda as far as cost is
in this case prefer to use contractors Roads are different. concerned.
that know the terrain. The desire to have Speaking at the commissioning of sign of lack of prioritisation. The road The way furniture, houses But she is quick to
companies which already have experience the newly acquired sh500b fleet of road construction industry should be tailored or buildings are different add that even then, it
in Uganda has left the authority locked up construction equipment, President Yoweri to the economy. We cannot afford to is the same way roads will not give you the
in a situation where they find themselves Museveni noted that construction units build first world roads in a poor economy are. If one built a three- kind of comparison you
using the same contractors on several under UNRA and the works ministry like Uganda. Why would you need a storey building and are looking for. For
projects. It is more of a case of better the could help government save a lot of flyover in Kampala when almost all the another built a bungalow, example, in Ethiopia, the
devil you know than an angel you dont money. ground roads in the city are completely the cost of construction materials are provided by
know, Mutabaazi explains. UNRA ED Allen Kagina says each impassable? he wonders. would denitely not be the government. Here, as a
regional station across the country We should have clear policy same. This goes down to a contractor, you go out of
INTERVENTIONS can now ably maintain area roads and guidelines on how to develop our roads. number of factors like the your way to look for the
Several interventions have been made stringent conditions have been put in Why would you develop a road like the materials being different, materials. Land acquisition
by government to try and arrest the place to regulate their operation and Busega-Mpigi expressway at sh30b per the designs, and the is also a big component of
escalating high unit costs, but it remains limited to road works for minimised kilometre yet almost all the ring roads overheads, she explains. construction here. In the
to be seen whether these will help maintenance costs. and streets in Kampala are in a sorry For example, we have neighbouring countries,
mitigate the situation. Mutabaazi advises that government state? If I was to use an example of the different types of roads. their land tenure systems
Through the works ministry, should embark on a drive to skill housing sector, Uganda cannot afford There are asphalt roads. are completely different.
government is currently undertaking a its citizens in road construction. If to put up houses to the same standard These come in different There, land belongs to
feasibility study on a probase technology government was as those in developed types too. We have those government. Here, it

sh30b
in construction of roads. really committed countries because we that have an asphalt belongs to the people.
This is a low cost technology adopted to building local cant afford them. If we surface of 50mm, some So when you are doing
from Malaysia through application of capacity, there are not building sky at 100mm and those of comparison of one country
sealants to the locally soured materials would be a scrapers like those in 120mm. What many see to another, you must hold
like murram and aggregate stones. Use big difference. Dubai now, why are we on such a road is just the some factors constant so
of proses sealants reduces the cost by a There is no way building roads of the black surface but they that then you can be able
substantial percentage as compared to
the conventional technology of bitumen
an economy of
a country can
COST PER KM OF western world today in
terms of cost? This simply
will not know how many
millimetres there are. The
to compare like and like,
she explains.
whose cost is rapidly shooting up, says
Eng. John Mbadwe, a principle engineer
develop without a
vibrant indigenous ENTEBBE does not make economic
sense because we dont
road that is 50mm will not
be as expensive as the
One time, I went to
South Africa and I was
at the works ministry, who headed a
study team to Malaysia.
construction
industry, he says. EXPRESSWAY have that kind of money.
That is why you see
road with 120mm, she
adds.
asking about the cost
of construction there.
Through the same ministry, the Companies almost all those roads She states that to make Their roads are going
Government is promoting labour-based like SBI have are being built using a fair comparison on unit for $1m per kilometre.
technology in road construction and been here for some good time but they borrowed money, he elaborates. prices of roads, one has to So is that high? Maybe,
maintenance for both districts and urban have not been able to build the capacity We havent developed a strong compare like to like. The maybe not because it
roads at relatively low costs. of locals and there has been talk about backbone as a country to stand our roads under comparison depends on the type
This is being done through subcontracting at least 20% to local ground and say we want to develop must be identical in almost of road you are talking
enhanced capacity for the national companies, but this has not materialised. our capacity, make sure that our local everything. Some other about. Things like labour,
institution, Mount Elgon Labour This would go a long way in boosting contractors do the work, supervise them roads do not have asphalt close proximity to the
Based Training Centre in Mbale, with local skills. As big foreign companies are and well make sure they deliver the but have a double sea must be considered
more innovations and cost effective working, the locals would be learning on project qualitatively and all payments surface pressing, because transportation
technologies in roads and bridge the job and this would eventually enable be done in Ugandan shillings until which is a different of the materials is also
construction, he explains. them work on projects of their own. It they reach a certain level. When Keith mix all together. a huge cost. Looking
More so, government recently bought is a shame that even the maintenance Muhakanizi (finance ministry permanent You cannot at equipment, South
1,151 pieces of road construction of roads is done by foreigners. Skilling secretary) raised this issue, you saw that compare double- Africa manufactures
equipment freshly imported from Japan locals would help curb escalation of most of these contractors rose up in arms surface pressing its own construction
for distribution to all the 118 districts. costs, he adds. because that is one of the ways they with an asphalt equipment. Here we
The equipment, bought using a loan Mutabaazi also says government benefit at our expense, he adds. road. Other roads dont. From that,
from the Japanese Bank for International should learn to put its priorities right. With these and more interventions, it are done as you realise
Co-operation, will be used to maintain Im not comfortable with these projects remains to be seen whether the cost of rehabilitation. that several
the roads under the care of district local that UNRA is actually pushing for, doing roads and other infrastructure will For example, sorts of things
governments. including the Kampala-Jinja Expressway. reduce; enabling government to focus on we have come into
Each district is receiving a road unit You know we are like a poor person who other social needs. a project play hence
comprising one motor grader, one vibro gets a small handout of, say sh100,000, which is the cause of
roller, one wheel loader, one water bowser and they straight away buy a suit of This story was done with support starting varying unit
and two dump trucks. This is expected to sh80,000 when they dont have the basic from the African Centre from costs, she
reduce road construction costs. needs like food and shelter. This is a clear for Media Excellence Allen Kagina concludes.

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