FOR THE PROMOTION OF EFFICIENCY AND TRANSPARENCY, KAMPALA TAXI PARK MANAGEMENT MUST BE PROPERLY TENDERED
We are currently having problems in Uganda because of the way the executive handles matters of the Government. For efficiency in the transport sector,given the current inefficiency, the tender to manage taxi parks must be competitive and no short cut to that. It is sad that State House is alleged to be involved in the re_knewing of the UTODA tender which is wrong. Some sources have it that UTODA has been remitting some money to State House and may be that is the reason they are favoured to have the tender secretly re_knewed. It is a scandal on the part of State House to be beneficiary to welfare monies which are not receipted and more so that this money paid is what makes life hard for travelers. UTODA should not issue welfare receipts to those who are not their members.
William Kituuka K
Utoda is no longer relevant to city public transport
By Robert Sebalu (email the author)
Posted Monday, August 1 2011 at 00:00
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In his analysis of public transport in Uganda in a local daily recently, presidential press secretary Tamale Mirundi urgues, rightly, that new partnerships are required to restructure the sector and respond to travellers’ needs. But he slips off the mark by saying a new strategy and introduction of high capacity vehicles may help Utoda remain relevant. Utoda, an association comprising all kind of people, emerged to make money and fill the space created by the collapse of UTC.
Uganda has done its round of “efficient private enterprises” in various sectors. UEB, Uganda Hotels, banks and other UDC enterprises were sacrificed at the altar of the belief that government should not do business.
We now know better. While transit systems in other cities mutate continuously, Kampala has been stuck with Utoda and all the associated problems. Time has now come to rock the boat. Utoda is credited for demonstrating that public transport in Kampala can generate a minimum of Shs2b a month. But it has also shown that in Uganda, it is possible to leave such huge amounts of public money in the hands of handful of individuals to manage.
Now that the city is run by KCCA, it is imperative for the Authority to adhere to corporate standard operation procedures to move the city forward. KCCA’s move to revamp the city that commenced with reclaiming some of the Authority’s houses should be extended to cover public transport sector. The public have the right to know, comment, influence and participate in improving city transport.
Proper management of the city lies in adherence to corporate standard governance practices. It is imperative, therefore, for KCCA to ensure adherence to strict financial openness and accountability as well as checking fraud, including in Utoda. Failure to achieve this, for reasons, including “pressure from above”, would be an about turn to the old KCC.
Judging by the amounts of money and the politics involved, the reorganisation of public transport in Kampala will require making comparisons with transit systems worldwide. An analysis of the 1933 London Passenger Transport Board that preceded the Greater London Council in 1970 and later Central Government in 1984 with deregulation in 1985, and mutation into the current Transport for London that have been in place since 2000, would be useful.
Safety and efficiency are the key elements of a good transit system that Kampala needs while profitability should be secondary. An efficient bus transit system running on 20-hour pick-and-drop scheme would be ideal for Kampala. Some people argue that because Kampala lacks bus lanes, buses can’t operate well but buses have run on the city streets before.
Ownership of the transit system could revert to a well-managed government parastatal. Another alternative could be a tripartite public private partnership arrangement, with ownership split between government, a core investor and the public through floating shares. This way, the public would become stake holders, and business accounts would be open to scrutiny, among others. This would allow KCCA to concentrate on other core activities and we would all be winners.
Mr Sebalu is a former city Councillor
UTODA in panic over new contract
By Moses Mulondo
and Titus Kakembo
UGANDA Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA) leadership is in panic as the Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago continues to undertake several measures geared towards breaking their monopoly over Uganda’s transport sector.
Sources told Sunday Vision that the association’s leaders have been attempting to entice the Lord Mayor and the councillors to renew their contract which ended in October.
Mayor Erias Lukwago said he was getting anonymous calls from people intimidating him to back off from UTODA and other irregular deals.
“These calls are from the city tycoons who got these deals we are investigating, including UTODA. That is why I have now stepped up my personal security. But I cannot yield to any amount of intimidation and attempts of bribery because my mission as I promised voters is to kugogola (eliminate dirty deals) in Kampala,” Lukwago elaborated.
The Kampala Capital City Authority leaders investigation recently revealed that while UTODA remits only sh392m, the association collects over sh2b.
“The days of exploitation are over. We shall not allow a few individuals to enrich themselves at the expense of poor Ugandans who are overcharged by way of high public transport fares. Whoever will stand in our way, whether it is the President or some councillors will be exposed and fought,” Lukwago told Sunday Vision.
He said he had received reports that UTODA’s leaders are counting on President Yoweri Museveni to help them retain the contract. There are reports that UTODA leaders have been playing political games with the NRM party and that many of them claim to serve as state spies.
“Many of these UTODA officials are linked to intelligence agencies. Even the Kiboko squad is composed of UTODA officials who are linked to state intelligence organisations and many of them are veterans,” said a conductor in the new taxi park.
Many other drivers and conductors the Sunday Vision team spoke to expressed fear of UTODA agents and those who dared speak did so after ensuring that no one around was suspected to be a UTODA agent.
“UTODA has spies among us and you cannot be sure of the person next to you. Forgive me, It’s not safe speaking to you,” one driver said. Sunday Vision established that although the drivers and conductors have many concerns, they are caged in fear arising from the experiences of those who attempted to speak out.
“One friend of ours at this Makindye stage was chased away because he expressed his dissatisfaction over the blocking of the Kabaka’s trip to Kayunga. We were threatened not to express our allegiance to the Kabaka and support for Lukwago. It is those who support NRM who are treated fairly. UTODA has been turned into an organ of the NRM,” a conductor told Sunday Vision.
The Lord Mayor has already embarked on consultations with all the stakeholders in the transport sector so as to come up with a policy which will bring to an end the exploitation of the association.
On Thursday, Lukwago met taxi drivers and conductors to collect their views on what they think should be done.
The drivers complained that since they are overcharged by UTODA and the taxi owners ask them for between sh50,000 and sh80,000, many times they are left with hardly anything.
The idea of formimg UTODA was mooted in 1990 by a group of close friends. According to registration records signed on May 25, 1990, UTODA was founded by five people; four businessmen and a salesman.
The founders included Haji Moses Katongole, Christopher Kaggwa Ssalongo Amooti (aka Mzee Nkaaga), Saleh Ssemakula, Kiberu Twakoladda — all businessmen and Willy Kaddu, a salesman.
UTODA, according to the registration documents, is a company limited by guarantee, and not having a share capital.
The association won the tender to run taxi parks in 1995 from Kampala City Council (KCC). After two years, KCC kept on renewing UTODA’s contract for consecutive two-year terms until 2005 when the current five-year deal, which expired last year on October 30, 2010, was endorsed.
In the past decade, there have been growing wide public anger at quality of UTODA’s services but KCC has kept on renewing the tender even after UTODA defaulted on the agreed monthly remittances.
According to KCC’s 1999 performance contract assessment, then acting City Treasurer Prossy Ssebina, wrote to the Kampala District Local Government Tender Board warning them against renewing UTODA’s contract.
“UTODA has no share capital which becomes difficult to deal with (them) in case of bankruptcy,” Ssebina warned in her letter of the district’s tender board secretary.
Sources indicate that the reason UTODA has been able to hold the country at ransom for about 20 years despite the substandard service it offers is because most taxis are owned by politicians or people closely associated with them.
International reports indicate that Uganda’s public transport is one of the most expensive in the world.
Lukwago argues that even the five-year contract that KCC gave to UTODA was irregular as it never followed the procedures outlined in the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (PPDA) of 2003 as there was no open bidding process.
The other irritating matter to the passengers, drivers and conductors is the appalling state of the taxi parks in Kampala City. Those on the outskirts are the responsibility of Kampala Capital City Authority and not UTODA as it is perceived.
“Our responsibility is strictly limited to controlling the conduct of the drivers, perfecting their driving skills and monitoring the mechanical condition of vehicles,” says UTODA national chairman John Ndyomugyenyi.
“This is in addition to keeping hygiene and general good appearance of the parks. Enforcing of the laws is KCCA’s business,” he says.
Ndyomugyenyi hastened to dismiss allegations that UTODA is collecting sh4b from more than 6,000 minibuses each paying sh4,500 every day to operate in the city.
“That is sheer speculation. It is not true that we collect sh4b and only pay KCCA a paltry sh390m with arrears piling up every other financial year.”
“Go to Ministry of Works, the statistics available at the Transport Licensing Board are very different,” asserted Ndyomugyenyi.
The nauseating public toilets leased to private operators by KCCA, burst water pipes, mobile food vendors and an army of hawkers grace both the Old and the New Parks.
But Ndyomugyenyi argues that UTODA is bracing for better service provision. To decongest Kampala many operators are procuring bigger buses at a cost of sh60-sh80m.
“UTODA expects the World Bank and our monetary institutions will loan us resources at affordable rates,” hopes Ndyomugyenyi. “This year, our goals are to procure bigger buses, provide good customer care, have professional driving skills and perfect vehicles plying the city routes.”
The state of taxi parks are mind-boggling. There is hardly a way for commuters to place their feet as hawkers, taxi touts and luggage in transit compete for space.
Both parks and those in Nakawa and Natete respectively have patches of tarmac here and there. Come rain or burst sewers and green water fills up the gaping holes.
The parks are dotted with potholes everywhere. It is dusty on sunny days. It gets muddy on rainy days. Burst water pipes are used by mobile food vendors, car washers and street kids to bathe, cook or wash. Litter and garbage carpets the patches of tarmac still in place. Blue bottle flies hop from waste to beef in an open butchery displaying a cow’s leg.
The toilets don’t flush. The attendants make do with five litre water cans, play ear-assaulting music and burn incense to contain the nauseating stench of urea and human waste.
The Police Post at the park is always busy with passengers reporting unscrupulous conductors issuing counterfeit sh50,000 notes, conniving to pickpocket unsuspecting passengers and hurling rude remarks.
“When a passenger see a conductor with bloodshot eyes they provoke them saying they smoke weed,” confides Ismail Kawooya. “But this is often as a result of stress, working awkward hours or lack of sleep.”
He says they meet all kinds of character in transit. Some vent their anger resulting from failed relationships, failed business and political defeat on them.
“Passengers ought to realize that we too are human,” says Kawooya. “Some of us too have family responsibilities. We deserve a pinch of respect from employers and passengers.”
Commuters in Kampala are irritated by the way taxis conduct their business. They have no fixed prices as they charge according to their mood swings. Early in the morning a trip from Luzira to Kampala is sh1,000.
Most cars are in the habit of refuelling with passengers already on board, speeding on highways and shuttling more than 160km return trips in a day. This is against the law.
There is a combination of bad drivers, ramshackle vehicles, overloading, potholes, and corrupt traffic officers reducing Kampala city to a gridlock. These commuters weaving from lane to lane account for 80% of accidents and traffic jams in the city. Five touts can grab at a passenger showing them where the taxi is for a paltry sh100 which they then fight for. They are fast, numerous and authoritative in determining receipted charges.
UTODA emerged as the main public transport provider after the collapse of the Uganda Transport Company (UTC) due to mismanagement. This left the country with no public transport company.
Registration fee for new vehicles sh100,000 - sh1m depending on the stage.
Lucrative stages like Entebbe the fee is sh500,000-sh1m.
Clearing new driver sh300,000-sh500,000.
Clearing new conductor sh50,000 - sh200,000.
Stage fee of sh500, for a 32-page exercise book.
Loading fee equivalent to the fare of three passengers. Entebbe fee is sh4,000.
Another additional sh1000, from each trip, given to UTODA’s welfare officer.
Receipt fee of sh4,500 per day.
Park entry sh1500 per day.
Monthly fee of 20,000.
UTODA vice chairman Chris Ssengooba says between 2,800 and 3,000 taxis are under their charge but a KCC 2006 survey put at 8,000 vehicles.