Tuesday, 19 July 2011

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‘Utoda has no capacity to manage public transport in Kampala’

Kampala Capital City Authority is facing the gigantic challenge of changing Kampala into a modern city. To attain that, the Authority has to deal with pertinent issues such as garbage collection, clearing drainage channels, destroying unplanned structures, and streamlining business in the he city. But most importantly, KCCA has tore-organise the public transport sector in and around the city. Risdel Kasasira, had an exclusive interview with Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, especially on his plans to turn around the chaotic city transport system to normalcy. Excerpts:-

Why do you want Utoda out of managing public transport in Kampala?
They claim to have built an empire on an image of all-embracing Movement kind of system involving all taxi drivers, taxi owners, operators and everybody in this sector. But this is fiction. They have been thriving on blackmail, political patronage from big shots in government and some other individuals. They came emerged as a result of the need to have a clear policy on public transport following the collapse of Uganda Transporters Corporation and Uganda Railways. There has been a big vacuum in public transport. And the government simply said the provision of public transport is the function of Kampala Capital City Authority. And it appears KCC had no capacity. It’s not easy to manage public transport in the city. Coupled with the rot in KCC, there was a breakdown of the system which Utoda exploited. That is why you see a total breakdown of order the public transport sector. It has now turned out to be lucrative business for only some individuals who do care much about service delivery. Theirs is about how they can maximise revenue collection. They have also been playing political games and in some cases blackmail. It is not even that they genuinely support the NRM like they have been saying. They blackmail the President and everybody else. They claim to be NRM pillars in Kampala but this not true.

Who are these government shots? Secondly, there are reports that you are fighting Utoda because it is seen as an organisation that supports the ruling party?
In the first place, they are not supposed to be supporting any political party. If they are service providers, why are they partisan? How can a company be partisan? How can I say that MTN is NRM or Sunday Monitor is DP? No, no, no! The day you say that, then you have lost it. It is a minus on them to say I am witch-hunting them because they are NRM. That is the blackmail I am talking about. Section 11(e) of the law that establishes the city authority says I am the head of the authority, and I am supposed to come up with strategies and policies to develop the city. That is where my leadership is focusing now. When it comes to solid waste management, public transport, drainage system, infrastructure, health and education, that is what I am supposed to be doing as the Lord Mayor. We need to ask, what’s our policy on public transport? Are we emphasising matatus, buses? or boda bodas? When shall we develop a railway system? This is my vision. It is beyond this simple rhetoric and politics of Utoda.

Do you think you will achieve your plans with the internal fighting between you and the Executive Director of the Authority?
What matters in leadership is compliance with the will of the people. What are the aspirations of the people? They want the current leadership to turn around the city. They want drastic changes in Kampala so that we can have a modern city. That is why there is good will and huge support of the people in Kampala. I would be disillusioned if people were telling me to remain with the status quo. There is huge public outcry on the way public transport is being managed. This strong empire of Utoda built in the minds of people is crumbling and that gives me hope that I will succeed.

You may be having support of the people in Kampala but do you have the legal instrument to back you to break this empire you are talking about?
The powers given to the Authority which I head, are enough to back me in all this. What I wanted to do is to involve every stakeholder. That is why I had to go into consultative meetings with various people. I am happy we have agreed and I was given a green light to go ahead design a policy for Kampala. We have seen people who are given contracts to collect garbage do shoddy work - Auditor General raises questions and they get away with it. On paper, there is accountability, but on the ground nothing is done. Money is collected from people, drainage is blocked and no- work- done on ground. We must break that cycle and I have the will to exactly that. Before I came in, people were saying I won’t caution Utoda. Let me tell you - Utoda has no capacity to manage public transport in Kampala. There is no way we can divorce KCCA and the central government from public transport sector. The government has relegated this sector entirely to Utoda. If you asked our government about how many taxis we have in Kampala, they will not give you an answer. Even the Bureau of Statistics doe not know the number of boda bodas we have.

The previous mayors, including Mr Nasser Sebaggala, started with vigour like you but after sometime, they went silent. How sure are we that you will be different?
I think you are not correct. None of my predecessors has ever come out with stern action. Mr Sebaggala talked but when he assumed office, there is no single day he came out to take action against Utoda. It is true he criticised Utoda during his campaigns but immediately he entered office, he kept quiet until he left office without even proposing an increment of remittances. The contract signed by Mr SsebanaKizito (Sebaggala’s predecessor), was signed in October 2005 and was supposed to end in October 2010. They were [Utoda] supposed to pay Shs290million to KCC every month. Mr Sebaggala never even revised this. In 2005, you pay Shs290 millions and in 2009, you pay the same amount? No, no. And against how much have they been collecting? He could not even raise a finger about this. This is huge thuggery.

Could you be having figures on how much Utoda collects every month and what percentage of the collection is supposed to go to KCCA?
That is the problem we have. We do not know how much they collect. You can only get this information by looking at the books of accounts and that is why when I wrote to them, I asked them to bring their books of accounts. That is when they went up in arms and saying that was a no-go area for me. Utoda talks of having 7,000 taxis in Kampala but our investigations put the figure at more than 12,000. Utoda potentially collects between Shs2 billion and Shs4 billion every month.
Our consultant did this. They refuted the figure and we told them to bring their records but they are refusing to do that. The Executive Director is saying I should not ask for this. They say Utoda is a company limited by guarantee. I am a lawyer and I know that a company limited by guarantee is not supposed to do business. How do you do business with us when you are registered as a NGO? I have never seen where an estate manager can refuse to give the figures of the money collected to the owner. The public transport is the function of KCCA. It is our revenue base and Utoda is supposed to be our commission agent.

What is the way forward and where do you go from here?
I am going to work out a programme to summon Utoda and other service providers in the city and discuss number of issues.