Government bans roadside taxi charges

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KAMPALA. The government has banned roadside taxi charges and stages in a bid to harmonise the operation and taxation system of taxi operators in the country.
The policy is contained in the new guidelines, a copy of which Daily Monitor has obtained, that were issued in December last year by the Ministry of Local government. The document is titled Guidelines on the Management and Levying of Parking Fees in Local Council Governments Public Service Vehicle Parking Areas.
These guidelines will take effect on July 1 this year to allow ample time for all the stakeholders to comprehend and prepare for their application in the coming financial year. They will be valid for the next three years.
“…. for avoidance of doubt, vehicles stopping to drop passengers shall not pay any fee and this means that a vehicle will only stop in a gazetted stage or parking area and its engine will not be switched off,” read the guidelines in part.
This should put to a stop the haggling between taxi operators and local council officials, with the former accusing the latter of failing to ban the illegal road side stages and taxi levies which have always resulted in clashes.
According to the new guidelines, the vehicle owners and drivers shall only pay or deposit a monthly parking fee to a local government or an urban authority’s back account, where the vehicle picks and drops passengers.
Local governments will then issue a monthly park sticker after confirming that the fees have been paid in a designated bank account.
This sticker will be displayed on the vehicle, preferably, on the windscreen. Each local government shall not levy more than Shs80,000 per vehicle.
The ministry’s issuance of these new guidelines and policies follows a directive by the President to the local government minister, by then Adolf Mwesige, in a letter dated December 13, 2015 where he noted that the taxation of taxi operators and their management must be harmonised.
“This is being unfair and also expensive for the taxi owners because this counts as double taxation. Furthermore, this is detrimental to the transportation system as the cost is ultimately passed onto the passenger,” reads in part the President’s letter.
Mr Museveni’s directive followed complaints by taxi operators who had reported to him that they are being charged multiple fees, something they said, reduces their income.
Currently, taxi operators, especially those working within the city pay a road user fee of Shs120,000 to the Kampala Capital City Authority.
However, they claim that they are charged again whenever they are in other local governments. Drivers operating in local governments are also charged a certain amount by the local councils in the gazetted public parks.
Daily Monitor couldn’t readily establish how much each local council charges per month.
The new policy is applicable to only taxi operators who use the gazetted public parks; if they use private parks, they will still be charged multiple fares.
Information availed to this newspaper shows that there are few public parks that can accommodate all the taxis. As a result, taxi operators are compelled to operate from private parks, where the charges are multiple and high.
For instance, there are only three gazetted public parks in Kampala City Centre; Old, New and Usafi parks. Majority of taxi operators flock the private parks and other illegal stages because of failure to get space in public parks, or in a bid to get passengers easily.
Asked about these new guidelines, the chairperson of the Uganda Transporters Development Agency (Utrada), Mr Mustapha Mayambala, challenged the government not to come up with policies and fail to implement them, arguing that it would be of no help.
“When you look at the roadside fees, it’s just illegal and some of them are backed by the local council authorities yet they know what exactly must be done. Let’s wait and see how these policies are implemented because we need a harmonised business,” he said.

SOME OF THE GUIDELINES
Other guidelines in the policy document include:
• No sale of any public park without the consent and approval of the ministry of local government and adherence to the PPDA requirements
• Registration of taxi operators as a cooperative society with the ministry responsible for cooperatives and management services for the parks in local governments shall be reserved for park operators.

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