On 5th March, the cabinet of the Government of Uganda approved the Road Amendment Bill of 2017 and agreed that it would amend the Roads Act to allow individuals and private firms to construct, maintain and collect road charges for roads they have funded/constructed.
A little history on the law regarding roads in Uganda reveals that only the government had responsibility and preserve to construct roads in the country. Accordingly, and for long, only the government had the right to collect revenue from parking, designated public road projects as well as issue licenses and permits to firms to help government collect this revenue.
The new Bill shall repeal the Roads Act, cap.358 and the Access to Roads Act, Cap.350 that previously gave government the sole rights to deal with road development and construction in the country.
The amendments in summary:
Road reserves will be extended from 15metres to 40metres. The reservations are measured from the middle of the road to either side.
If the road reserve is demarcated, government will allow temporary use of the area until it can construct the road. However, no compensation will be given to temporary road reserve users since government will have issued them a notice on the terms of the usage of this area.
Passenger and cyclist pathways
Government will impose strict pedestrian and cyclist pathways along all roads to reduce the present use of main roads by all motorists and pedestrians.
Penalties for violation
The new law will introduce express penalties to drivers violating the road rules. Culprits will be fined immediately.
Also, overloading truck drivers will be penalized a cash fine instead of prosecuting them in Court.
New road authorities to be created
Presently, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) holds veto on roads in the country. In Kampala alone, Kampala Capital City Authority has the mandated to deal with roads in the city, and each district has its own roads authority. Creating new authorities, apparently, will enable government to supervise than manage every road works.
Road tolling system introduced
A road tolling system is where funds to construct roads are levied upon and pooled from the motorists using that road.
Our take on the Bill
The Bill exposes the loopholes in the present law on road development and infrastructure in the country. For long, there have been institutions and able individuals requesting permission from government to develop their own roads since the government seems overwhelmed by the job.
However, the post-colonial rules in existence prohibited these private entities from performing this task.
In as much as we applaud the initiative, we request that lawmakers take precaution on some of the proposed amendments.
Pedestrian pathways and boda boda cyclist pathways must be clearly demarcated for future use. Improved road systems separate human from vehicle traffic. With the growing population, this should be a core reason for separating pathways since we predict pedestrian population to increase in the suburbs. Besides, boda boda cyclists and other cyclists will increase due to the congestion of suburbs.
Road reserves must be vacated at all costs to avoid the current problems of compensation, forced evictions and human rights abuses.
If not developed, road reserves must remain vacant for the people to avoid laying claim on them. All persons compensated must vacate the designated roads/lands immediately. Future governments will have easy access to the same.
The road tolling system
There have been several clashes between motorists and revenue collecting authorities on the issue of road use tax and fees. Increasing private entities to collect road use revenues is a risk. Only centralized authorities should retain this preserve for accountability purposes.
It will not be long before the minister tables the approved Bill to Parliament for debate. However, the stingy issue of motorists paying for the roads plus the new revenue collecting authorities may get the August House in uproar. Other than that, institutions and individuals who can afford to develop their own roads should be given a chance to do so.
BY ATUHAIRWE AGRACE
This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 3 Issue 2 of March 10th 2018. To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE