The Matatu Owners Association has differed sharply with Public Service CS Margret Kobia on the government’s introduction of 24 NYS buses in Nairobi.
The buses that are currently on a few routes are much cheaper that regular transport – commuters pay Sh20 only. Fifty more are to be introduced.
As the row over the system continued, MOA chairman Simon Kimutai, Kobia, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and NTSA Director General Francis Meja faced the Senate Transport committee on Wednesday.
Kimutai argued that the move is unfair to the private sector investment as the government, which is tasked with providing a good environment for doing business, is engaging in unfair competition.
“I don’t know if the National Youth Service did a study to establish demand before bringing the buses into the market, which is already making losses,” he said. “This is disrupting or destroying the business.”
Kimutai added that the public transport sector is suffering loses due to massive extortion by traffic police officers especially at checkpoints on roads.
He faulted Kobia and NYS Director General Richard Kubai for deploying the buses yet the MOA and the Transport ministry have agreed to procure 50 buses to address the congestion problem.
But Kobia told the committee chaired by Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu) that the NYS venture into the matatu business was prompted by a gap evidenced by the scarcity of vehicles that leaves commuters stranded at bus stops.
The MInister said more buses will be added to the NYS fleet by the end of this month.
“The National Treasury has agreed to procure several buses to help stabilise commuter fares, decongest the city traffic and restore discipline in the PSV sector,” she said.
“We are concerned about the congestion of people at stages. We are charging Sh20 per commuter regardless of the distance because we need Nairobians to spend less on transport and to be left with some money to improve their quality of living.”
Regarding the charge, Kobia said they have not concluded that it will sustain operations.
Kimutai refuted the report of the scarcity of vehicles and a gap in the sector.
“Crowding a stages does not mean there aren’t adequate vehicles but that traffic does not flow. There is a deadlock. The entry by the NYS doesn’t mean traffic will move faster,” he said/.
Boinnet dismissed claims that police officers are only on the road to engage in corruption.
“We do not set off from our homes to extort money from the public. However, it is not that there is no corruption because there is always a giver and a taker,” he said.
The IG told Kimutai to ask members of the association to stop giving police money.
“Close to 300 officers have been fired for engaging in corruption. Anybody engaging in corruption, starting from senior National Police Service officers, runs the risk of losing a jobs and being taken to court,” he noted.
NTSA Director General Francis Meja said corruption is rife on the road due to the MOA’s reluctance to adopt the cashless system of collecting fares.
“The availability of cash is the cause of corruption. The electronic card swipe system was frustrated by the private sector which had vested interests [but it is the only way to] address this problem,” he says.
Meja also said the authority certified NYS buses to operate as PSVs before being deployed.
“Members of the public are very happy. Fares in the public sector are not regulated in this country at the moment. When it rains, they go up so no one can be asked about that,” he said.
He adds that the PSV services are of low quality forcing many people to keep off and buy their own vehicles for daily use.