By Amandla Neumbe
Lawmakers passed into law The Traffic and Road Safety Amendment Bill 2019 into law, giving the Ministry of Works and Transport powers to license garages and driving schools across the country.
The Traffic and Road Safety Amendment Bill 2019 was tabled before Parliament by former Minister of Works, Monica Azuba in July 2019 and the objective of the Bill is to amend the Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998 Cap 361 to strengthen road transport regulation and road safety management in Uganda.
The Minister told Parliament that the Bill seeks to address the inadequacies in the current law that have greatly impended effective operationalization of the Act, emerging trends and challenges of road transport regulation and road safety management arising from the increased number of road users, increased accidents on the roads and the need to conform to international and regional best practices on traffic and road safety management.
Government argued that The Traffic and Road Safety Act 1998 was enacted over 20 years ago and since then there have been emerging trends in road transport regulation and road safety management which are not adequately addressed by the Act including: regulation of transport companies using online digital platforms, organization of public transport by requiring public transport providers to form Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies.
According to Government, the new legislation will also deal with prescribing conditions of market entry and exit in public transport services, enhanced penalties for traffic offenders to curb the rampant accidents and introduction of demerit point systems for traffic offences, prescribing the duties of other road users and communities near accident scenes, legal protection of first responders who make efforts to save accident victims, provisions for safer vehicles, modification of vehicles and inspection of vehicles among others.
Clause 17 of the Bill seeks to amend Section 29 of the principal Act to introduce the requirement for persons engaged in the repair of motor vehicles, manufacturers or dealers in new, second hand or reconditioned motor vehicles to be licensed by the Chief Licencing Officer.
However, garage operators rejected the proposal arguing that the proposed amendment is unfair, discriminatory and an attempt at double taxation of service providers in the industry since repair facilities and other motor vehicle dealers are issued with trading licenses by their respective local authorities annually as a precondition for their operation
Law Makers on Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure Committee however concurred with the proposed amendment arguing that it is aimed ensuring that repair facilities, manufacturers or dealers in the second hand or reconditioned motor vehicles are regulated for enhanced road safety.
Indeed, Parliament agreed with proposal from the Committee noting that the proposal would enable government to curb the rampant theft and sale of stolen motor vehicles in the country.
The bill in Clause 22 seeks to amend Section 37 to enhance the penalty for operating a driving school without a licence from the current maximum of fifty currency points to one hundred currency points that is equivalent to Shs2M saying it would ensure that drivers train from only approved driving schools.
Clause 22 (d) seeks to empower the Minister to make regulations to prescribe procedures and conditions for persons to undergo private driving instructions without going to licensed driving schools. Proponents of the Bill noted that the proposal is intended to allow specialized instructors to train persons in circumstances where there licensed driving schools lack capacity to do so. For instance , in the case of heavy goods vehicles, buses and engineering plants
However, MPs objected to the proposed amendment saying it is susceptible to abuse and defeats the essence of licensing of driving schools which is to ensure standardization