31 March 2014

Kenya: Crisis Looms As Court Declines to Halt PSV Rules

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Looming matatu crisis leaves thousands stranded (file photo).

Nairobi — Public Service Vehicle operators will have to comply with new regulations set to come into force on Tuesday as directed by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), after the after the High Court declined to suspend implementation.

The Country Bus Owners Association has wanted the rules suspended until a case they have lodged in court is heard and determined.

While refusing to halt execution of legal notice 23 of 2014, Justice George Odunga said issues contested in the latter notice by the applicants' needed to be probed further by the court.

Bus operators have filed the case against NTSA, Transport Cabinet Secretary, and Traffic Commandant and three others arguing that the legal notice is incapable of being complied with.

In the suit papers, the PSV owners contend that the legal notice 23 published on March 11, 2014 in the Kenya Gazette is draconian and unconstitutional.

Through their lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui, the applicants told Judge Odunga that the regulation is not operational because the respondents are yet to table the regulations before the Senate or Parliament for approval.

"The sudden, draconian and arbitrary enforcement of the legal notice without Parliamentary scrutiny as envisaged under Section 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act denies and deprives the applicants of the opportunity of the protection of the law through Parliamentary scrutiny," Kinyanjui told the court.

The petitioners want the High Court to prohibit Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau from issuing any directive in relation to Legal Notice No. 23 of 2014 without consulting them.

The bus owners are also aggrieved by the regulation 11 of the legal notice because they are required to remove roof carriers on buses.

They argue that without them, the public costs of travel will increase as they enable buses to ferry cargo not readily ferried by other means.

Once the roof carriers are done away with the applicants argue that there will be no place to carry wheelchairs of the physically disabled when they travel long distance, yet all along they have been carried on roof carriers by operation of Rule 61(1)(a) of the Traffic Rules.

" Physically disabled people will be turned away from travelling merely to comply with this draconian regulation since the applicants have specifically maintained roof carriers on their buses to facilitate the enjoyment by the physically disabled," added lawyer Kinyanjui.

There was a backlog at the Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit in Nairobi on Monday as thousands of Public Service Vehicle owners struggled to beat Tuesday's deadline.

The NTSA Director of Motor Vehicle Inspection Gerald Wangai indicated that the congestion was as a result of a last minute rush by the operators who had three months within which their vehicles could undergo inspection.

"If they had been coming throughout the three months, we would be having a lot of vehicles which have complied. You however find that many of them came within the last week. People should be bringing their motor vehicles early so that you do not come in at the last minute and start queuing," he said.

His sentiments were echoed by the Authority's Chairman Lee Kinyanjui who ruled out any extension while stating that the vehicle owners had been given enough time to comply with the regulations.

"Until the last one week or even two weeks, the compliance has been very low. In fact, there has been literally nobody even coming to bring their vehicles for inspection for the purpose of compliance. In the last week is when we now see a lot of activity and now is when they want us to extend the time," he said.

Kinyanjui stated that they should have used the period given to ensure that they get their compliance certificates instead of rushing at the last minute.

PSV owners will have to provide evidence of compliance with laws on minimum labour standards, statutory deductions, tax, health and safety at work.

An office and management system from where all the activities will be answerable on demand will be required. The operators will also have to operate a cashless or other pre-paid payment system.

The operators will also display an identification sticker approved by the NTSA adhering to the approved schedules, timetables and routes.

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