SGR project fails to take-off two years after its launch

It is more than two years since Presidents Yoweri MUseveni (Uganda), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Salva Kiir (South Sudan) made a symbolic launch for the construction works of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) bringing anticipation for a cheaper and safer movement of goods from Mombasa.

The emerging details about the project however indicate that, two and a half years later, the project is yet to take-off due to delays in the compensation of the project affected persons.

According to the 2017 Auditor General’s report to Parliament, out of 3,481 project affected persons in the districts of Tororo, Butaleja, Namutumba, Luuka and Iganga, only 2,023 are compensated.

The Auditor General, John Muwanga noted that with two and half years left to the expiry of the project contract, the valuation report for the project affected persons is not ready yet.

He also questioned the slow demarcation of right of way and low compensation rates featuring top on the list of concerns by the audit team.

Appearing before MPs on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the head of Planning at Ministry of Works, Richard Sendi said that when the SGR started in January 2016, they had anticipated to have the preliminary works on land acquisition to be complete by February 2017.

More than Shs 524bn was budgeted to be used in the compensations but to date, a paltry Shs 50.8bn has been released.

Miriam Tumukunde, the SGR project manager threw the blame to the Ministry of Finance that she said is too slow in releasing the project funds.

For instance, while project is meant to receive SHs 39.2bn this financial year, Ministry of Finance has so far released Shs 5bn for the first quarter.

PAC chairperson Angelline Osegge is expressed fears that the delayed compensation may end up pushing the values higher.

“This Committee is worried about the consequences of delaying this project. The values of compensations are going to go up, and when you adjust the project cost, that means a cost to Uganda,” Osegge said.

“We would all like to see the project running in the stipulated time and finish it. For God’s sake, our neighbors have done it, who cursed Uganda, who bewitched Uganda? You look the other side Kenya has done it, what is wrong with Uganda?” Osegge wondered.

SGR is part of the Northern Corridor Integration Project, expected to run from Mombasa through Kenya to Uganda and connect to Rwanda and South Sudan.

The Ugandan section is estimated to cost $2.8bn approximately Shs 48trillion expected to be funded by a credit line of 85% funding from the Exim bank of China.