The construction of roads in Uganda has been mostly dominated by foreign firms that often come with a host of expatriates. Shs11.2 trillion is the amount worth of projects that foreign companies have taken up in roads and energy sector compared to the Shs911b local contractors share.
Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has raised the red flag over some of the contractors who have used this to bring in expatriates who work on the road projects without proper documentation.
Last week, UNRA issued a notice requiring all contractors working on various roads and bridges in the country to turn up for verification of all their foreign workers.
“This is to inform all contractors and consultants that the compliance verification exercise has commenced and all expatriate staff working on UNRA projects should present valid entry permits, certificate of residence and work permits as required by law,” the notice reads in part.
UNRA further says they are doing this to ensure that foreign workers in the country are operating within the national Immigration laws.
According to Mr Samuel Muhoozi, the director roads and bridges development, UNRA, the Authority has recorded several instances of illegal foreign workers on its projects.
“Our recent field monitoring exercise revealed that some expatriates are illegally conducting business on our project sites,” he told Daily Monitor last week.
He added: “Their illegality is a non-compliance issue on our side in terms of project management and also a breach of financing agreements with our donors.”
Mr Muhoozi also blamed the previous management at UNRA for not following-up such incidences of illegal foreign workers being employed by contractors on Ugandan road projects.
UNRA says that illegal foreign workers must be off the road and bridges immediately until they comply with the law.
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), estimates that foreign companies in Uganda have gobbled up at least Shs11.2 trillion worth of projects in roads and energy sector.
Local contractors only have a share of Shs911 billion on projects in the two sectors of the economy.
At a recent dialogue, Ms Cornelia Sabiiti, the executive director PPDA faulted government for failing to encourage foreign companies to hire local workers and also buy things like cement locally.
“The government is not doing anything deliberate to encourage local contractors and suppliers of local raw material and labour to take the opportunity of being hired by foreign companies,” she said.
UNRA is one of the government entities that have been faulted by PPDA for not enforcing preferential schemes when awarding local contracts.
Troubling for Uganda is the lack of a broader local content policy, leaving matters like labour and supply of goods at the discretion of foreign companies.
Mr Muhoozi says UNRA has been implementing a policy where it only approves key expatriate staff with specialised expertise that is not locally available.
What the law says
Section 59 (1) of the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Act, (Cap 66) states that “A person who is not a citizen of Uganda shall not, unless that person is in possession of a valid entry permit, certificate of permanent residence or special pass issued under this Act – be employed in a parastatal or private body; be employed in the public service; be employed by a private person; engage in private business in Uganda.”
Source: the Daily Monitor