Government hints at looming crackdown on vehicles emitting huge amounts of smoke

Matatus at General Motors (GM) offices along Mombasa road in Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The government has hinted at a looming crackdown on roadworthy vehicles emitting huge amounts of smoke which are not safe for the environment.

National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) said once public participation is completed, such motorists could be punished.

NTSA’s Director of motor vehicle inspection and safety audit Engineer Joel Wangai made the revelation during a tour of the automated inspection unit in Nairobi's Likoni road centre.

"The machine that we are using here to test the amount of smoke emitted by the vehicles is part of our automated system available in Nairobi and Mombasa," stated Wangai.

 The automated system also checks among them brakes, speedometers, wheel alignment, body condition and state of the engine among other small details.

The announcement has been faulted by Matatu Owners Association.

Association chairman Simon Kimutai said the government should first check the quality of fuel in the market before making such populist directives.

“The emissions are brought by the quality of fuel that is being consumed, they should look for the root cause of the same,” said Kimutai.

Wangai however said: “At the moment the motorists are not being punished for that because the law has not yet been passed, first we will carry out public participation on the same."

The director said this could be actualized in the next financial year and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) have been included.

NTSA says if the rule was to be applied now, about 90 percent of vehicles on Kenyan roads will fail the test.

“We usually have two types of inspection, safety and environmental. For environmental test we had to come up standards for Kenyan so as not punish the citizens.

We are planning to do public awareness campaigns in the next financial year to vehicle owners and then to declare a date when the regulation will start working,” Wangia said

So far the Director said Public Service vehicles (matatus), those using diesel and adulterated fuel have been found to emit smoke that could surpass the recommended standards.

However, Wangia said at the moment motorists are being advised to service their vehicles and the right fuel before the regulation is implemented.

The Authority also stated that they have received funding of about Sh200 million from the World Bank to expand the Likoni road centre from three to seven inspection lanes.

Another Sh400 million will be used to expand the Thika, which is in poor state into a modern inspection and driver testing centre.

The Director also responded in the wake of reports that NTSA and some driving schools were colluding to issue licenses without going through the legal processes.

“We have a department headed by DCI at the NTSA and we have picked up the matter and whoever is found to be capable we are going to take stern action including dismissal,” he said

Deputy Director for Inspection Opere Okumu said at the moment they inspect 90,000 vehicles per year.

But the automated system allows them to test not less than 700 per day once the planned expansion is complete.

There are 17 inspection centres, which are not in good condition thus they decided to modernize them starting with Nairobi and Mombasa.

The authority says the modernization will reduce the contact of motorists coming in for inspection and NTSA staff thus it will reduce chances of corruption.