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PSV owners oppose move by Government to control matatu fares

WORK LIFE
By Josphat Thiong’o | March 15th 2019

Matatu Owners association chairman Simon Kimutai, during a press briefing at a Nairobi hotel. [George Njunge, Standard]

Matatu owners have protested a move by the Government seeking to control fares charged by Public Service Vehicles across the country.

On Tuesday, the ministry of transport drafted amendments to the Traffic Act and the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) with an aim of introducing a regulation capping fare tariffs charged by matatus.

But Matatu Owners Association (M.O.A) chairman Simon Kimutai yesterday opposed the move saying that it was malicious and the matatu operators would not allow for the implementation of the regulations.

Kimutai refuted claims that Matatu operators were exploiting commuters as alleged by Transport CS James Macharia, saying that the pricing of fares on different routes was dictated by supply and demand forces.

He also highlighted that the matatu owners, who will be most affected by change of regulations, had not been consulted, accusing the Government of jumping the gun.

“At one time, the government liberalized the economy of this country and price controls were thrown out. We do not know the reason behind the re-introduction of the price controls but I sense mischief,” he said, adding that they would only accept price adjustments upwards.

 The chairman faulted the transport ministry for not offering subsidies to matatu operators saying that the sector was currently making losses and that only support from the government would help salvage the sector.

“If we are making losses and you reduce the prices then the sector will collapse rendering most people jobless. The move to reduce prices is not welcome at all,” he added.

Mr. Kimutai however stated that the PSV industry was self-regulating to ensure that there was no extortion of commuters by operators. He observed that he had directed that all PSVs should indicate a price chart of fares charged during both peak and off-peak hours.

Kimutai also said that he would implore PSV operators not to exaggerate fares especially when it rains.

The ministry of transport seeks to amend Section 119 (1) of the Traffic Act by introducing a new sub-section that will allow the Cabinet Secretary to prescribe the regulation of PSV fare tariffs.

Once the amendment has been effected, the Cabinet Secretary will have a legal mandate to determine the formulae for establishing the tariff, review mechanism of the tariff and penalty for non-compliance.

The ministry also wants amendment of section 4(2) of the NTSA by introducing a new sub-section that will allow for establishment of PSV fare tariffs.

This was revealed by Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, in a presentation to the National Assembly's Transport and Housing committee on Tuesday.  

Macharia who was represented by Chief Administrative Secretary Chris Obure at the committee said the action is aimed at cushioning the public against being overcharged. He stated that the government is aware of exploitation of the public by the transport sector and the amendments are meant to protect the public.

Currently, there is no explicit provision that enables the authority to regulate fares under the public transport laws.

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