World Bank considering resumption of US$256m financing to Uganda’s road projects
The World Bank is re-considering its decision to suspend funding amounting to US$ 265 million (Ushs920 billion) for construction of various roads under the Uganda Transport Sector Development Projects, a top Bank official has said.
The World Bank in January 2015, in a move that hit the progress of the works, and affected the Shilling, suspended funding for on-going works on Fort-Portal- Kamwenge road, Hoima-Kabwoya, Kagadi-Kyenjojo road in the west of the country. The Tororo- Mbale-Soroti-Lira-Kamdin works in the east of the country were also suspended.
Andrew Bvumbe, the Bank’s Executive Director for Africa who was in Uganda for on the spot inspection and assessment said the financing could be back in place by June 2017.
At the time of suspending the works, the Bank said it was taking the action to compel the Government of Uganda and the contractor to abide by environmental and social impacts of the works.
A December 2015 statement by the Bank said, “the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today announced the cancellation of funding to the Uganda Transport Sector Development Project (TSDP) due to contractual breaches related to workers’ issues, social and environmental concerns, poor project performance, and serious allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by contractors.”
Before the cancelation, allegations had been rife of sexual exploitation of young girls by the Chinese contractors, abuse of local employees and harassment of female employees in particular on the Kamwenge-Fort Portal road.
The contractor of the works is China Railway Seventh Group.
“The multiple failures we’ve seen in this project -- on the part of the World Bank, the government of Uganda, and a government contractor – are unacceptable,” a statement issued by the Bank quoted the Group Chief, Jim Yong Kim, as saying.
“It is our obligation to properly supervise all investment projects to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are protected in our work. In this case, we did not. I am committed to making sure we do everything in our power – working with other stakeholders – first to fully review the circumstances of this project and then to quickly learn from our and others’ failures so they do not happen again. The World Bank is committed to be a global leader in Environmental and Social Standards in the development sphere, and part of that critical responsibility is to watch projects closely and ensure that risks are properly addressed,” Kim said.
Before action from the Bank, the Fort-Portal Kamwenge road works had become a topic of local advocacy groups, calling for actions, and for a while the complaints went unheeded to.
In December 2016, Christine Baryamujura, a local Councilor and activist in the Bigodi section of the road, told the UK Guardian Newspaper, “Everything has been destroyed, our gardens, even our girls…Of course we want the road but should it be at the expensive of our lives? Our leaders care more about the road than people’s health.”
But now the Bank says they are satisfied with the progress the Government of Uganda has made in addressing the issues.
“We are happy (the Government of) Uganda has responded to these issues and it has had tremendous progress, so in a couple of months we shall make a statement on the loans,”Bvumbe said.
The Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) Executive Director, Allen Kagina said, they have now amended the contractors contracts to include environmental and social impact considerations.