By Our Reporter
The Minister for Works and Transport, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, has made a request to Parliament to support funding for the compensation of project affected persons for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project.
Katumba Wamala says construction work for the SGR project is scheduled to commence in the Financial Year 2023/2024, thus the need for all land to be acquired.
“I request that funds are found to complete land acquisition. A right of way free of encumbrances is a requirement by the bank before securing the loan and any further delay in land acquisition could lead to increase in compensation costs,” said Katumba Wamala.
He noted that up to five loan applications have been made to EXIM Bank of China since 2015, with responses made to issues raised by the bank, on the project.
The minister said this in a statement to Parliament on the status of land acquisition and required budget for land acquisition for the SGR project, in a plenary sitting on Wednesday, 09 March 2022.
He said a total of 4,700 acres of land are supposed to be acquired for the project with compensation costs for the mainline estimated at Shs581.7 billion for 10,696 project affected persons.
He added that reports worth Shs247.2 billion in Tororo and Buikwe were achieved by the Chief Government Valuer starting from 2016, but so far Shs95.6 billion has been paid out to 4,237 project affected persons.
“The total budget for the SGR project during the next Financial Year 2022/2023 is Shs26 billion yet reports worth Shs151.6 billion are pending payment. Some of these reports were approved over five years ago,” said Katumba Wamala.
The matter was previously raised by Busiki County MP Hon. Paul Akamba in a plenary sitting on Thursday, 03 March 2022.
The MP had tasked the Minister for Works and Transport to present a list to the House of SGR project affected persons and an update on when those who have not yet been compensated, will be catered for.
“For the last three years, budgeting for this issue has remained under unfunded priorities and it is not sufficiently budgeted for in the next financial year. The Minister should tell us why we are not funding this issue,” Akamba said on Wednesday.
Members of Parliament also raised concern on the way in which the compensations are being effected, saying the activity has to be more organised.
Kigulu County South MP Hon. Milton Muwuma, said some of his constituents have failed to be paid on account of lack of records.
“What is the fate of the people whose tiles/land agreements were taken over by the office in charge of SGR but have never been paid because their records cannot be traced?” Muwuma asked.
Hon. Apollo Yeri (NRM, Tororo Municipality) stressed the need to expedite the payment of all projected affected persons of the SGR project, saying it could become expensive for government.
Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality) said the Constitutional Court recently ruled that individuals cannot be evicted from land unless they have been compensated.
“If government wants to use any piece land, the process is that people must be compensated first before they move,” he said.
Hon. Elijah Mushemeza (NRM, Sheema County South) recommended suspension of some projects like SGR project saying concentration should be put on projects whose funding is at risk of being withdrawn.
“Why should we concentrate on the SGR which may take some years to start and then begin paying high costs because we have failed to meet our obligations on the pipeline when it is four months to the deadline?” Mushemeza asked.
Deputy Speaker Anita Among raised concerns of insecurity in areas already acquired by government for the SGR project but have not yet been developed, saying they need to be secured.
She also stressed the need for land revaluation saying land that was valued five years ago has already gone up in value.
“Land appreciates, it does not depreciate. What you are going to ask for as a ministry should now change. This will help us solve the challenge of delayed compensations,” advised Among.