President Yoweri Museveni issued a new directive on the fees to be paid by commuter taxi operators, amending the directive that he issued in November last year on the same matter.

Taxis plying Kampala roads or operating within 21 kilometres from Kampala will pay 720,000 Uganda shillings while those operating long distances on upcountry routes will be paying 840,000 shillings per year.

Barely a week after the President’s  directive on fees to be levied on taxis, drivers under their body, Kampala Operational Taxi Stages Association(KOTSA) have come out to protestthe annual payment system.

KOTSA members argue that it is easier for them to pay monthly fees and also demanded that the new fees should be reduced.

“Even when we met officials from the Local Government ministry, we told them that we can’t afford to pay the annual fees. Our vehicles are ever facing mechanic problems, some members are driving these vehicles on loans. So, when Government subjects us to pay annual fees, it’s automatically kicking some of our members out of the business,” said KOTSA chairman Yasin Sematimba.

According to Mr Sematimba, after a taxi makes on long route, it has to be serviced. “We are driving second hand vehicles, which have mechanical problems. Those taking long routes are ever in garages, meaning the drivers spend some days without operating. Therefore, I beg the President to look into this matter,” Sematimba explained.

In an interview, State minister for Local Government Jennifer Namuganyu said their investigations revealed that the amount of money association leaders are charging taxis drivers are more than the new fees.

“We noted that whenever the taxis driver stops at any stage, he has to pay welfare fees. If you calculate it at the end of year, it doubles the Government new fees,” Namuyangu explained.

The new directive is a win for Kampala drivers whose fee has only gone up by only 20,000 shillings. For taxis plying long routes, the fee has gone up from 500,000 shillings, a figure that the President had set in November to 840,000 shillings – the fee agreed last week.

The changes mean that a taxi operating from Masaka to Kampala, Masaka to Mbarara or Jinja to Kampala will be paying 840,000 shillings annually.

The new figures were agreed at a State House meeting on Wednesday last week. The meeting, chaired by President Museveni, was attended by officials from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Ministry of Local Government, Uganda Local Governments Association and taxi operators’ leaders.

In November last year, the President had ordered a reduction of Kampala commuter taxis fees from 1.44 million to 700,000 Uganda shillings and capped the fees of commuter taxis operating outside Kampala at 500,000 Uganda shillings. This directive was supposed to be effected starting January 1, 2018. However, both KCCA and Ministry of Local Government went back to the president protesting the reduction.

KCCA Director for Revenue, Fred Andema, last month said  that they had asked the president to rescind the November directive and let Kampala taxis pay 120,000 shillings per month. On average, Andema told this reporter that a Kampala taxi on average makes 1.2 million shillings per month. As KCCA and Ministry of Local Government officials courted President Museveni to increase the fees, taxi operators were also on the president’s feet pleading with him to maintain the November directive.

When the money is paid, the two categories of taxis will be marked. The President ordered that Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) create an account where this money will be deposited, relieving KCCA the responsibility of collecting tax from Kampala commuter taxis. After collection, the money will be shared between KCCA and local government units. KCCA will take 60 percent of the revenue leaving 40 percent for the local governments.

Mustapha Mayambala, the chairperson of Uganda Transporters Development Agency (UTRADA), who attended the meeting, said that President Museveni accepted to increase fees for upcountry taxis because local government leaders convinced him. “They convinced the President that upcountry taxis make a lot of money. They gave him reports and figures and he accepted,” Mayambala said.

Mayambala said taxi operators are ready to pay. “We are ready to pay this money. We have been asking where and how to pay this money,” he said.