Dear Jennifer (KCCA ED),
Having wasted another 2 hours of my life in the city’s traffic jam (effectively covering a distance of 17km), I find myself thinking hard about certain things:
Why exactly doesn’t our city make a serious effort at improving it’s infrastructure? Apart from the N. Bypass, there’s not been any major new infrastructure built within the entire past decade. That means the same traffic jams that were there in 2000, say along the Banda-Kireka road are still there 12 years later. Clearly this has very little to do with the number of vehicles and everything to do with the lack of investment in infrastructure. Surely, we should be having traffic lights at every junction within the city centre and the major junctions in the suburbs. As it stands, the only functional lights (Wandegeya, Nsambya, Jinja Road, Wakaliga) were donations from Japan if I’m not mistaken.
Of course there’s an answer – no money… But why? We all know that for the past few years, more than UGX. 1TN has been allocated to national roads during each budget cycle. Yet, this sector is also heavily supported by donors aka development partners. And it is very good to note that this is slowly paying off – the quality of the major national roads being constructed, even to a laymans eye, is extremely high (e.g. the N. Bypass, Jinja-Bugiri, Masaka-Mbarara, Kabale-Kisoro etc). On the other hand, KCCA is forced to use contractors that do such shoddy work and take so long doing it that it would be highly comical if it were not so sad. But even more embarrassingly, some of the things that can be done to make Kampala a better place to stay would actually not cost that much. Honestly, how much do traffic lights cost? Or, the simple but effective junction modification such as was done to the Kololo-Lugogo Bypass road at Kati-Kati? A small ‘lay-by’ that enables traffic to join the bypass seamlessly and hey presto – it’s saving thousands of motorists a lot time that would otherwise be wasted.
Anyway, with the money issue in mind, I’m forced to wonder what Kampala’s contribution to the country’s GDP and tax base is? I suspect it is close to 80%. If so, why doesn’t the city get a lot more budgetary support from the central government than it does currently? We all know that the best contractors are the likes of SBI/RCC & Roko. Why is KCCA given so little money that they cannot afford them? Is it really a wise idea to neglect the city dwellers whose taxes form the bulk of locally generated government revenue? Or, to put it another way – if hundreds of thousands of city dwellers/workers waste three hours daily while commuting short distances, how will they compete (in the new global knowledge-based economy) with their counterparts in other cities?
Then, the whole hullabaloo surrounding the new bus service – I just don’t get it. This is a private company that has imported 100 new buses. If we assume a cost of UGX. 100M per bus, that is an investment of UGX. 10BN. Why would anyone in their right minds halt this service when there’s absolutely no taxpayer money being used in running it? Do they want you to start a new procurement process all over again which will last another 3 years? Call me naïve – but why would a private transport firm even need a contract with KCCA? Unless there’s a plan to maintain a monopoly, I’d imagine that there’d be a licensing framework instead and all capable investors would throw their hats in the ring. Then KCCA would limit itself to regulating the sector and ensuring standards are maintained. That would be the best deal for long-suffering commuters with all the advantages of competition. Imagine a situation where the government decided to contract a particular bus service to provide all public transport e.g. Gateway or Gagaa? Where would that have ended up? In my opinion, it is imperative that the buses start operating straight away. And so you need to do all within your power to make it happen – stand up to those MPs on our behalf.
Anyway – this is enough! To summarize the rant, a lot of us were extremely happy when you assumed office and we were energized by the way you embarked on your duties. We still support you and wish you the best. However, if you are to be judged as having succeeded at the end of your term of office, you’ll need to have done a lot more: secured proper/adequate funding for running the city, started/completed some serious infrastructure projects (junctions/drainage/flyovers) and put in place a sustainable, affordable mass public transport system (better than the current 14 seater vans). I hope you and your team manage to achieve most if not all of them. And I believe that you can do all this with or without the support of the Lord Mayor and/or other negative forces…