Govt settles bus operators, park management dispute

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Govt settles bus operators, park management dispute
Namayiba Bus Park in downtown Kampala | Courtesy

KAMPALA | The government has suspended the increment of loading fees at Namayiba and Kisenyi bus terminals until June 13 and ordered bus operators that had quit their route charts in protest to return with immediate effect.

The decision, communicated by Mr Winstone Katushabe on behalf of the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Works and Transport, follows Tuesday's meeting with the Uganda Bus owners Association executive and the management of Namayiba and Kisenyi bus terminals.

"For avoidance of doubt, the bus operators should pay loading fees of Shs53,000 until June 13," Mr Katushabe said in a statement in which he also directed how bus terminals should manage washrooms.

Bus operators at the two terminals in the capital Kampala last week protested a number of issues trigged by the sudden increase of exit charges by Shs6,000.

The ministry ordered the management of Namayiba and Kisenyi bus terminals to immediately give the operators a one-month formal notice indicating that the new loading fee of Shs59,000 will commence on June 14.

In the meeting, bus operators led by Mr John Bosco Muwonge, chairperson of Uganda Bus Owners' Association, poured their hearts out to the ministry, accusing management of the two terminals of unilateral increment of loading fees.

They also complained about increase in rent without notice, the failure to provide receipts for payment of rent, high charges for electricity, innumerable number of hawkers, idlers and drunkards, as well as the loading of cargo trucks in Namayiba.

However, the government said the bus terminal management proved the justification for the increments on loading fees and rent.

Mr Paul Muhwezi, general manager of Kisenyi Bus Terminal, and his group cited increased cost of operations, including utilities, security, taxes and capital obligations.

Over the weekend, bus operators in Kisenyi and Namayiba terminals temporarily switched off their engines and left with the keys, protesting the Shs6,000 increase on loading charges.

Mr Muhwezi said that before the controversial taxation policy, the Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solutions (EFRIS), each bus paid Shs53,000 to load.

“We started using EFRIS, and each bus has to pay an extra Shs6,000 so the bus operators protested,” he said.

Some bus operators abandoned the terminals and started operating from elsewhere.

The government officials and the directors of traffic mediated the dispute between bus operators and terminal management in Kampala.

The meeting with government established that there was a communication gap between the terminal management and the bus operators regarding the increase in loading fees.

"The notice provided for the increment was not sufficient," Mr Katushabe said.

He also noted concerns that bus operators were losing a lot of money due to the presence and influence of brokers operating in and around the terminals.

Operators pay Shs1,340,000 per inter-state bus and Shs335,000 per local bus to brokers to load the bus.

"This is unreceipted money that greatly increase the cost of doing business," Mr Katushabe said.

He ordered that any payment for loading fees or rent should be issued with a receipt (including the tax invoice) and should reflect the Tax Identification Number for the bus operator to enable them use the receipt as evidence of expenses when filing returns with the Taxman.

Cargo trucks and taxis (drones) have been ordered out of the bus terminals with immediate effect.

The ministry also directed terminal management to work with the Uganda Bus Owners Association to "remove all brokers, idlers, drunkards and drug abusers" from within and around bus terminals.

"They cause insecurity to the travelling public," the ministry said, dangling suspension of route charts of any bus operator that will not comply with this resolution and continue using brokers.

The Director of Traffic and Road Safety, Lawrence Niwabwiine, and the Kampala Metropolitan Police Traffic Commander Stephen Tanui, who attended the meeting, have been asked to police the resolutions.

The government also directed that the management of Namayiba and Kisenyi terminals hold quarterly meetings with the bus operators to discuss matters pertaining to their operations.

The minutes of the meetings, Mr Katushabe added, must be submitted to the Ministry of Works and Transport.

However, while the bus operators earned several chips in the meeting, the decision on increase of rent in the terminal cannot be reversed or deferred because it had already been submitted to Uganda Revenue Authority by the management of Namayiba and Kisenyi for purposes of assessment of the rental tax payable.

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