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Board Approves Panel Recommendation to Investigate Uganda Road Project

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on March 12, 2021, approved an Inspection Panel recommendation to investigate the North Eastern Road-corridor Asset Management Project in Uganda.
The Panel on November 9, 2020, had registered a Request for Inspection of the project, which aims “to reduce transport costs, enhance road safety, and improve and preserve the road assets sustainably by applying cost effective performance based asset management contracts, along the Tororo-Kamdini road corridor.”
The Request was submitted by 10 community members representing eight families from the project area in Uganda. The Requesters have asked the Panel to keep their identities confidential. 
The Request pertains to four interlinked issues. First, the Requesters claim that the project planned to use Oruja Rock, a large rock located in their community, as a stone quarry for the rehabilitation of the Tororo-Kamdini Road. They allege that the valuation of Oruja Rock was not done properly, they were coerced into signing 10-year lease agreements, and the compensation is insufficient. Secondly, they allege that their crops, trees and structures were destroyed as part of an involuntary resettlement process in the buffer zone surrounding Oruja Rock. This process had been initiated without prior notice or adequate compensation for their losses, according to the Requesters. Thirdly, they raise concerns about the non-disclosure of project-related information. Finally, the Requesters raise concerns about coercion, intimidation and reprisals in relation to the issues above.
In its response, Bank management states that some of the concerns of the project-affected persons regarding the integrity of the Oruja Rock, potential impact from the quarry operations and intimidation have been addressed, as the quarry will not be used for the project and the project contractor’s staff and equipment have been demobilized. Management also states that it informed the Uganda National Roads Authority that all works under the project will remain suspended with the exception of the emergency works along the road corridor until several issues are resolved to the Bank’s satisfaction. Management states that the Bank has made every effort to apply its policies and procedures applicable to the points raised by the Request and further states that it has asked the borrower to take specific steps to address relevant issues in line with the project loan agreement.

The Panel welcomed Bank management’s commitments to audit the compensation payments made to community members with regard to the destruction of crops and structures in the buffer zone to assess whether the community is being adequately compensated for damage incurred. The Panel also welcomed management’s strong position with regard to the allegations of coercion, intimidation and reprisals. However, the Panel stated it is not satisfied that management’s response addresses all the concerns raised by the Requesters, including 10-year lease agreements for Oruja Rock and its surrounding area that the Requesters say they signed with the project subcontractor under duress or the lack of meaningful engagement with the community. The Panel indicated it is also not satisfied with the lack of sufficient consideration to the reasons that led to the alleged harms materializing. The Panel therefore recommended carrying out an investigation into the alleged issues of harm and related non-compliance with Bank policies, including on the sequencing of project-related activities as they relate to the Bank policies on Environmental Assessment, OP/BP 4.01, Involuntary Resettlement, OP/BP 4.12, and Investment Project Finance, OP/BP 10.00. More