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Rising number of seemingly used cars with gov’t number plates raises concern

Used cars in one of the car bonds in Kampala. Independent/Julius Businge

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A number of used vehicles bearing number plates of government agencies including security are fast becoming common on Ugandan roads. Some of the common vehicles carrying number plates of the Ministry of Defense, Uganda People’s Defence Forces-UPDF, and Judiciary include Premio, Rav 4, Corona, Fielder, Hiace, and Mark X.

Cars like Toyota Hiace commonly known as Drones or Super Custom are a common feature of clandestine security operations. The use of used vehicles by government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies-MDAs raises eye borrows given the fact that their is a policy of procuring zero mileage vehicles.

URN spoke to the Minister for Works and Transport, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala to get some answers on whether the government had backtracked on its policy to procure brand new vehicles. Gen Katumba told URN that to the best of his knowledge, his ministry has never recommended any ministry, department, or agency to procure used vehicles.

“I have no idea because my ministry doesn’t handle that, I only provide specifications for what vehicles government ministries can buy. The decision to buy a new or used vehicle lies with the individual ministry and each ministry knows the procedure to follow when purchasing vehicles,” Gen Katumba said.

Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF and the Ministry of Defense perhaps have the biggest number of such vehicles. Other than vehicles bearing UPDF number plates, its spy agency the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) often uses ordinary vehicles, especially Toyota Hiace in its clandestine operations.

The Defense Ministry and UPDF Spokesperson, Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye declined to comment on this matter, saying it falls under the procurement department of the army. “It is not my role. It is the role of the procurement department. You speak to them,” he told URN. Col. Charles Malinga, the UPDF procurement officer, said he doesn’t speak to the media and referred URN to Brig Kulayigye. “We do procurements but we don’t speak to the media. Hope you have heard me well,” Col. Malinga said.

The judiciary spokesperson, Jameson Karemani, said it is difficult to tell which department is using used vehicles because they share number plates with the Ministry of Justice and Constitution Affairs, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions as well as the Uganda Law Society.

“What you call a vehicle for judiciary might actually not be for the judiciary because that letter J is used by the Ministry of Justice, DPP, and Law Society. But as the judiciary, we don’t procure those small vehicles like RAV 4, Premio, and others. We don’t have them,” Karemani said on behalf of the judiciary.

The government set aside over Shillings 95billion in the 2017/2018 financial year budget for the procurement of vehicles for MDAs. This budget has been increasing just like the money spent on purchasing vehicles for MPs has been increasing over the years.

The price of a new car is always double or triple compared to used ones. For instance,  a new RAV4 car model 2022 costs over 100 million Shillings while the RAV4 model 2008 and onwards is over 60 million Shillings.

Joshua Kisawuzi, a social and economic rights advocate, said in order to know that public funds have been used in procuring used cars, you need to first know the model of such seemingly ordinary cars and establish how much was allocated for the purpose and specifications.

“If you get proof that people were given money to procure zero mileage vehicles and they procured used cars, that would be corruption. That would be an abuse of public funds. Such people can be prosecuted for corruption. But this would be possible with proof that indeed these small cars are used ones,” Kisawuzi said.



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