The Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts (Local Government) has tasked officials from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to explain why streetlights in many urban centres and cities are non-functional.
The committee chaired by Hon. Ojara Martin Mapenduzi (Indep. Bardege-Layibi Division) was on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 meeting the Lands ministry officials on the performance of Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development, Additional Financing (USMID-AF) programme. The USMID-AF programme is a project implemented by the Lands Ministry to contribute to enhanced public infrastructure, improved management and delivery of urban services through strengthening the capacities of municipalities and cities.
The programme was conceived from the apparent need to close the gap between required urban service delivery and the rapid urban growth rate.
During the meeting, the Committee was concerned about the poor solar lighting system in most municipalities and cities despite a huge government investment.
“The committee recently visited some of these cities and we are concerned about the quality and functionality of the solar lights. For example in Mbale, Soroti and Gulu, street lighting is wanting and unsatisfactory. How is this investment realistic if within a short time the lights are not working,” Mapenduzi said.
He noted that in cities like Mbale, the Ministry installed solar street panels with no voltage.
Honourable Ismail Muhammad Lomwar (NRM, Kotido Municipality) wondered whether the Ministry conducts environmental assessment before installing solar lighting.
“In most cities, these solar lights are not functioning and it has been blamed on the environment which destroys solar batteries. I really wonder if there was a study of environmental effect on street lights,” Lomwar said.
Vincent Byendaimira Ateenyi, the Director, Physical Planning and Urban Development in the Lands Ministry while representing the Permanent Secretary, told the Committee that the Ministry would institute a technical review committee to address the matter.
The parliamentary committee was also concerned about the variances in unit cost of road construction in different cities and high cost of road construction under USMID-AF programme compared to roads constructed by Uganda National Roads Authority.
In response, Eng. Tom Emmanuel Ojuuka, Municipal Infrastructure Development Specialist, said urban roads are quite costly because of their unique designs to accommodate several features such as pavements, walkways, parking, solar lights and drainage, which is not the case with national roads.