Our officers don’t hide in bushes anymore - NTSA boss

One of the reasons the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) was created was to keep rogue drivers in check. But to most Kenyans, it comprises officers in green cars who hide with speed guns. HUDSON GUMBIHI spoke to NTSA Director-General FRANCIS MEJA about alleged bribery of his officers, who are said to ambush motorists from behind bushes

In your honest opinion, what do you think is the public perception of NTSA?

What perception? As far as I am concerned, our focus is in line with our mandate. People think that our sole responsibility is safety, but we have many roles, which have not been understood by the public. But that said, I can confidently say we are on the right track.

But the public thinks that you are irrelevant, with others claiming you have outlived your usefulness?

Our mandate is clear, there are various issues we deal with like registration of motor vehicles, renewal of driving licences and inspection of motor vehicles.

Those who claim we have outlived our usefulness are wrong. For instance, we are now 100 per cent automated, unlike in the past when people used to travel from far to Nairobi to renew licences, a service that is offered promptly 24/7 online.

Why do your officers hide at blind spots or in bushes to ambush motorists with arrests?

Our officers are no longer doing that (hiding in the bush). They execute their roles in the open. Our instruction is clear, that they should not hide.

There is sufficient signage on our roads, but motorists don’t observe them. That is why we have been forced to resort to physical measures like erection of bumps and rumble strips.

Corruption is still a major problem along the highways and most roads in the country. Do you agree?

For a long time, it has been assumed that anybody (enforcement agents) who is on the road is taking a bribe. We have done our best by trying to monitor our teams. If an officer is caught taking a bribe, the punishment is summary dismissal.

Six months ago, we dismissed one of our officers. We have signed an MoU with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission whose officers work closely with our teams. If any of them solicits a bribe, they will be promptly arrested. We are in the process of having body cameras fitted on each officer.

But generally, our officers have done a good job.

What is the accident rate before and after the formation of NTSA?

In 2014, accidents dropped by 9.7 per cent. There was an increase of 5.3 per cent in 2015, while in 2016, there was a significant drop of 3.7 per cent.

So, on average, comparing the last three consecutive years when NTSA has been in existence, there has been a drop despite the level of increase in the number of motor vehicles, increase in population and increase in paved highways.

These are some of the risk factors we look at when gauging performance.

Do you have adequate human resource and tools to effectively execute your mandate?

To be honest, we don’t have adequate personnel and tools. But we are gradually building the capacity, you know we are still a young agency.

Currently, we have 70 motor vehicles for enforcement. Nevertheless, we have made good progress so far in spite of some of the obvious challenges in any organisation.

How extensive is public awareness on road accident risk, bearing in mind many pedestrians have lost lives as a result of carelessness?

Fatalities account for 40 per cent of accidents. Before NTSA stepped in, most footbridges were not being used and we enforced that. We have erected rail guards on some sections of our roads, especially in Nairobi where there has been a drop of 18 per cent in road accidents.

However, there are many areas that require footbridges to enhance pedestrian safety. We have conducted awareness and sensitisation campaigns in some slums like Kangemi, Kibra and Mukuru kwa Njenga, where we demonstrated to them how to use the road.

I believe you noticed that some of the rail guards have messages and signage to create awareness. A lot needs to be done still though, but obviously because of budgetary constraints, it is impossible to achieve everything within a short period.

Why is your agency unable to stop overloading, especially in Nairobi where there is high NTSA visibility?

Nairobi is not that bad. In Nyanza, it is a serious problem. The question is, ‘can we have a police officer or NTSA official in every single matatu?’

The reason why we created the Saccos was for self-regulation. The public should always play a role. Passengers should not stop boarding matatus that are full.

There are concerns of rampant corruption in motor vehicle inspection centres, with claims that with a bribe of Sh1,000 at the Thika centre, a sticker is given without even the vehicle being examined?

Let me make it clear that when our teams clear a vehicle that for sure is road unworthy, then they are engaging in unprofessional practice. B

efore NTSA took charge, people were receiving stickers in their homes without going for inspection. We have approached a specialised firm to upgrade the Likoni Road and Mombasa inspection centres with the latest technology.

We are still working on the implementation programme.

Tell us about your lowest moments on the job

It is really depressing when you come across accidents that are avoidable. It is worse when road users ignore the traffic code.

My deep conviction is that responsibility starts with road users. If individuals observe the law, road carnage will be minimised drastically.

It is exactly two years since you were appointed the NTSA boss. What are some of your achievements?

First, there is service delivery improvement. It is something we are proud of as a young organisation. For instance, we have gotten rid of brokers who used to mill around Times Tower. But a lot more still needs to be done.

You were at Kenya Revenue Authority prior to the appointment. Any set ambition?

To see an organised transport sector that is reliable and safe. In future, we shall create boroughs around the city where we shall have a transport system modelled on the Stagecoach mode of operation.

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