The Ministry of Works and Transport has suspended for at least four more months the rollout of digital number plates.
Whereas the government had indicated July, 1 , 2023 as the date for the mass rollout of digital number plates with each going for shs73500, a statement by the State Minister for Works and Transport, Fred Byamukama says this has been postponed to allow for more preparations.
“We, therefore, wish to clarify that by the powers conferred upon the minister responsible for transport by section 178 of the Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998, the minister has signed a statutory instrument amending the regulations to the effect that these regulations( for digital number plates) will come in force on October 31, 2023,” Byamukama said in the statement.
“The purpose of the amendment is to give the government enough time to prepare and sensitize the public about the importance and relevance of the service towards our road safety and security.”
The minister says in the same breath, the government has extended the contracts for the current service providers of number plates, M/S Arnold Brooklyn Company Ltd and M/S GM Tumpeco Ltd for a duration of four months until October, 31.
The development comes on the backdrop of an outcry by traders over the rollout of the digital number plates.
Kampala City Traders Association, KACITA recently blamed government for the rushed decision to implement digital number plates.
“Having thoroughly analyzed and studied what the new registration process entails, the consumers of the service and all the players in the chain, we think this is rushed.There hasn’t been any form sensitization of consumers and stakeholders. We realised that was no stakeholder engagements at most levels. The implication to this is that the July, 1, 2023 implementation date is too soon and if implemented, this will cause a lot of business stampede as well public outcry,” KACITA chairman, Musoke Thadeus Nagenda said last month.
He said that having engaged with their members especially those in direct usage of the above registration service who include motor vehicle dealers and importers, bonded warehouses owners, motorcycle importers, automobile assemblers and manufacturers, asset financing companies in the transport and logistics sector, fleet management companies, clearing and forwarding entities, drivers and riders including individual owners, they realized none of these was consulted.
KACITA also raised concern over the “abnormal cost” of the digital number plates and the rationale of the payment gap that they say is unfair.
“We have noticed that the new cost will be more expensive compared to that of regional neighbours like Kenya where number plates cost Ksh 3,000 (shs80,000) for motor vehicles and Kshs 1,500 (shs40,000) for motorcycles and they bear the same security features. Comparison on the costs per plate from shs125,000 to shs713,000 for motorcycles and from 137,000 to 713,000 for motor vehicles raises the overall cost of the unit and this is so ridiculous,” Nagenda, the KACITA chairman said.
He said dealers are already facing various financial challenges, including high fuel costs, maintenance expenses, and insurance cents and increasing the cost of digital number plates and tracking devices to their financial burden will push them further into financial distress.
The traders asked to know the breakdown of the shs735,000 for each digital number plate to be undertaken by Russian company, M/S Joint Stock Company Global Security.
“We also need an inquiry on the status of the credibility of the service provider According to various reports, the company is said to be bankrupt and non-operational. There is also no proven track record where this company has carried the same project successfully yet we have credible local potential service providers that would do the same thus defeating the BUBU initiative. This compromises the national image and a potential ticking time bomb in case they fail to deliver, and to mention capital flight and repatriation.”
The traders said there will be administrative bureaucracies after the government indicated that any changes to the car must be made after consultation with the chief licensing officer and in writing.
They say this is not practical.
“This is not practical since the geographical and infrastructural setups are different, and it is looked at as time wastage since not all Ugandans may not have the potential to write or even communicate explicitly and on time,” Nagenda said.
KACITA said there are many data protection and control concerns for both business and end users, adding that it is imperative to know who collects and maintains the data.
“What data protection measures have been put in place? What is the relationship between asset financers, users an downers as well as the government? where does this leave the Business integrity concerns? There are security concerns for both personal and business users like those in fleet and logistics. On business security, did you take into consideration the huge inventory management risks? How will this facilitate financiers of assets taken out on loan Security is compromised in case of hacking, mistaken identity, and personal security due to live locations shown 24 hours.”
“The use of untested technology, proof of success, in Delhi and California where a similar project was done, there is no much impact created. For California, the project pilot started in 2018 and it was implemented in 2022, why do Ugandans like rush and untested programs?”
KACITA recommended that the project should have a pilot plan of about five years coupled with a lot of sensitization.
“We also recommend that this project be implemented in a phased manner beginning with government vehicles and motorcycles. It can then be made voluntary to the public from which the full enrollment can be effected. The cost of the number plates should not more than shs200,000 for a new one on motor vehicles and shs130,000/- for motorcycles and replacement fee maintained at 50,000/- for all categories,” the traders advised.
They also asked for proof that 90% of the staff for the company implementing the project comprises locals and at most 10% foreigners where there are no capable Ugandans to execute the roles.
“While piloting the project, fitment centres should be placed in all bonds, other sales and distribution points across the country as opposed to being concentrated in the central
region. There should be more training and capacity building opportunities for instalment and maintenance of the number plates especially to the local players.”
“We don’t need to rush such a sensitive project unless there is any other hidden objective apart from what the eye can see. Giving this project an extra one year and it being implemented in a phased manner beginning with government vehicles and motorcycles would be a great exemplary move.”