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Mandatory vehicle inspection a rip-off!

On December 9, 2016, a Swiss company, Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS), held an inauguration ceremony for its first motor vehicle inspection station in Kawanda, north of Kampala.

The company has been contracted by the ministry of Works and Transport to conduct these purportedly mandatory inspections, ostensibly to curb the high rate of accidents and emissions, both of which are caused by vehicles in poor mechanical condition.

My contentions against this scheme revolve around three overarching points:

Abdication of responsibility by public institutions: In an effort to understand the institutional framework that governs (public and private) transportation, physical infrastructure, licensing, regulation and taxation, I cast my net deep into the sea of laws of Uganda and I found five institutions in my net.

In no particular order, I found the Uganda police inspectorate of vehicles located in Naguru, Jinja, Mbarara and Mbale; customs department of Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda National Roads Authority, Uganda National Bureau of Standards as well as the National Road Safety Council.

The Traffic and Road Safety Act 1998 as well as the Import Inspection and Clearance Regulations 2015 were also particularly helpful.

Summarily, the aforementioned public bodies are mandated and owe Ugandan taxpayers a duty of care with regard to the durability of public infrastructure (roads and accessories like traffic lights in this case), automobiles on the market, quality of the fuel that cars consume as well as registration and licensing.

Has the Uganda police’s inspectorate of vehicles been rendered useless? Have the Uganda National Bureau of Standards and the customs department at URA abandoned their roles of ensuring that all imported products are inspected and their fitness for purpose established before they get onto the market?

If these two haven’t abandoned their statutory duties, why should we pay twice for a service that was already provided and paid for by the end-user at the point of purchase? Will SGS refund those car owners from whom up to Shs 100,000 has been extorted in the name of mandatory inspection?

How will the cash-strapped National Road Safety Council which received a paltry Shs 150m for Financial Year 2014/2015 out of a budget ceiling of an equally measly Shs 300m to implement its countrywide mandate when part of its mandate has been outsourced to a private player, SGS?

Incoherent public policy: The argument by then minister of works John Byabagambi to the effect that the inspection is being undertaken to curb accidents and emissions is reflective of an acute lack of understanding on the part of those who purport to be in charge of our public affairs.

Because of the prevailing taxation regime, it is easier to buy a used (reconditioned) vehicle in Uganda today than a new car. Would it not make more sense to reform the tax code with a view to encourage Ugandans to buy new, first-hand cars which are safer and more environmentally friendly?

Instead, one public institution charges unconscionable tax rates for new cars (thereby forcing buyers to purchase older cars) while another institution punishes them by charging them for mandatory vehicle inspection for buying older and less environmentally friendly cars!

These two angles are treated as entirely unrelated. One institution is anxious to hit revenue collections by all means, another is starved of funds and rendered useless.

Misuse of public offices: This is not the first such haphazard scheme insofar as public and private transportation is concerned. Years ago, Ugandan road users were stampeded into installing seatbelts and speed governors for mid-range and heavy commercial vehicles.

The ostensible reasons of road safety that were advanced were clouded by the questionable circumstances surrounding the award of this tender and the hasty conclusion of the exercise. Little wonder that a random deadline of June 2017 has been set for all car owners, after which defaulters shall be heavily penalized.

For argument’s sake, can the vehicles in Uganda be inspected by SGS in a period of seven months?

You do not need a magnifying glass to see the fingerprints of fraud, collusion and impropriety surrounding what might turn out to be the latest in a series of continuing heists by public officials who connive with private players to fleece Ugandans under the veil of law enforcement.

Was a competitive procurement process followed for this mandatory inspection? Who owns the Ugandan subsidiary of SGS? What are the technical competencies of the people conducting the actual inspections? Are they accredited by car manufacturers? Are they automotive engineers?

Before I sign this off, I have a lingering question in my mind around the duty of care that public institutions owe us as citizens and taxpayers. Inspection of any sort is premised on the assumption that the person being inspected should have no excuse for not meeting the set standards.

Insofar as roads and the attendant infrastructure is concerned, what kind of roads do we have so that our vehicles should be expected to be of a certain standard?

Many Ugandans regularly have to bear the high costs of replacing shock absorbers, bumpers, grills, tyres and rims due to the damage that is sustained from potholes-turned-gulleys. Will inspecting vehicles cure the atrocious excuse of a public transportation system and infrastructure we run in this country?

For these reasons, I am commencing a campaign against this mandatory vehicle inspection and encouraging all taxpayers and road users to join me so that we resist this latest episode of extortion and daylight fraud by lazy and incompetent public officials who are in cahoots with disingenuous business interests disguised in the veils of road safety.


The author is a social critic.


+1 #1 Christopher BINGI 2017-03-20 10:50
enroll me in the struggle
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+1 #2 banato 2017-03-20 12:34
You have my 100% percent absolute support on this - Andrew.

Way to go. Uganda belongs to us all not just the few( gluttonous individuals) who sit in those offices and then decide how not to pay taxes while the rest of us pay for their non important foreign trips etc.

We need a fair and just system at the very basic demand as tax payers.
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-3 #3 Ugthinker 2017-03-20 20:32
The inspection is good and long overdue and opposing it entirely is a big leap in the dark.

The author correct is to quest the competence of inspectors, the eligibility of inspecting company and how they won this tender etc.

By the way, given our social set up, police incompetence notwithstanding, I would rather have the inspection done by the police.

Government should sort out police incompetence and safeguard our road users! That's not too much to ask for from our tired leaders! There's also need to regulate the quality of used cars imported into the country, URA and UNBS please...............
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0 #4 kabinda 2017-03-21 09:18
The article betrays significant ignorance and lots of misdirected anger.

Motor vehicle inspection that has been introduced applies to registered vehicles that inevitably develop operational challenges as they pound the Uganda roads.

The inspections are supposed to be annual to determine whether such vehicles continue to be road worthy or not.

This has nothing to do with Bureau of standards that looks at products at point of entry to the ,market or other vital inspections for vehicles entering the country before or as the process of registration.

The minister is right to say we need to ensure those shocks,CV joints,brakes,seat belts etc still work well every year before letting a driver continue using the vehicle.

He is also right to say we need to determine every year that a vehicle previously cleared for the road has not turned into a perpetual pollutant.

The policy has nothing to do with new or old cars and I doubt it is a duplication of service. The anger or frustration here is misplaced.
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+1 #5 Lakwena 2017-03-21 16:57
Where do we have to sign from?

In other words, the misery on the roads, even right in the city center of Kampala, qualifies Uganda as one of a hard to reach country.
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-2 #6 Chris 2017-03-22 06:00
Mr Andrew,
Hope you try look at New Zealand system of motor vehicles you will find that all departments you've mentioned have their points of inspections.

Do some research mate.
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0 #7 Lakwena 2017-03-23 09:36
Quoting kabinda:
The article betrays significant ignorance and lots of misdirected anger.

But Kabinda, unless you are part of the conspiracy to fleece motorists; this government have virtually absconded from its social responsibilities.

Given a dwindling economy, unless of course you are among the 42, who live off money like the Shs.6 billion freebees; for the already overburden working Ugandans, Shs.100,000 is not a small additional burden ordinary Ugandans can afford.

In other words, Kabinda is not angry because, he is one of the state agents sucking our blood.
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0 #8 Geoffrey Obiny 2017-03-23 20:22
Hello Karamagi, your letter is full of sense. I support you totally, and wish you organize a demonstration to bring it to full light.

SGS is Swiss Company, they shouldn’t stoop this low to steal from the poor in the name of providing technical service; it is ethically degrading of them to collude with the crafty and corrupted Uganda system to rip off millions of dollars and take to Switzerland, while the land bleeds with poverty.

I especially like you pointing out that the vehicles were inspected before they were imported; what inspection again?

Yet the road and other transport systems are not inspected. The huge potholes will disfigure the wheels, while the roads remain the same, even if the wheels are replaced/corrected: who is fooling who? S

GS should rise to their moral responsibility and resign from this bloody contract. I hope the Head Quarters of Transparency International are following this outcry.
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0 #9 kabinda 2017-03-23 23:16
Quoting Lakwena:
[quote name="kabinda"]The article betrays significant ignorance and lots of misdirected anger.

But Kabinda, unless you are part of the conspiracy to fleece motorists...

Lakwena,you are welcome to board vehicles with poor ball joints,creaking and leaking civil joints polluting the air you breath,etc after all like they say "this is Uganda" In your world saving money is more important than ensuring vehicles you get into are road worthy at all times.Isn't that just fantastic.

Well,All I will add is getting is not something you tell people .to do. I do not believe disagreement is necessarily a reason to get angry.

And commenting on a public forum like this is part of performing my civic responsibility.

It has nothing to do with embracing corruption as you seem to suggest. For the billion shilling thing,you are merely howling at the moon. It has nothing to do with my earlier comment..
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