August 2—Today, Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) organized an engagement meeting with contracted Chinese companies to find ways of avoiding the mutual failings that have led to bad press and negative public perceptions about Uganda’s road development programme.
“As an organization that oversees road development in Uganda, we have put up standards that each contracted company has to follow. Social and environmental issues like road safety and security, child abuse through child labour and bad behaviour that includes raping women will not be tolerated,” Allen Kagina, the UNRA Executive Director said earlier today.
Last September, the World Bank suspended disbursement of funds for key road projects following concerns about the behaviour of workers hired by some Chinese contractors. Before the resumption of this financial assistance earlier this year, the government had to make a commitment to remedy such tendencies.
Several representatives of Chinese construction companies, UNRA senior managers and officials from the Chinese Embassy in Kampala attended the meeting.
Kagina asked the contractors to finish on schedule and avoid substandard work that soon results in cracks and fissures. She also asked them to be mindful of their other obligations especially social and environmental responsibilities.
She also asked the Chinese contractors to help with capacity building by passing on their knowledge to their local counterparts. “We are aiming at developing local content. We want our local contractors to also be able to compete for the big contracts and we are counting on you to help them as part of your social responsibility. If we all work together, we can build roads that are of standard and every one benefits,” she said.
Mark Ssali, Head of Corporate Communications, said UNRA is dedicated to giving equal treatment to all contractors be it local or foreigners and that they only factor that determines who wins a contract will be their abilitt to successfully build lasting jobs.
Allan Ssempebwa, Manager, Media Relations, Public and Corporate Affairs said, they chose to start with the Chinese companies, because they number the most in Uganda’s road development and because of the unique relationship that they have with UNRA.
“Since the new Executive Director came in office, they has been a lot of contract cancellation like you have been seeing in the news and this has stained the relationship between UNRA and the contractors. We wanted the contractors to meet with the new Board so that they can tell us their challenges and we also tell them our expectations and their responsibilities so that we can work towards building quality roads that will benefit the common Ugandan and be worthy of his taxes,” he said.
Ssempebwa said, “This is an on-going thing. In the near future, we will meet road maintenance companies that are mainly Ugandans and also have the same engagement meeting so that they are not left out. The Chinese that we met today are road developers.”