The Russian plan
Under the plan, all of the estimated 3 million motor vehicles and motorcycles on Uganda roads and new ones being added daily would be fitted with digital tracker by 2023. The Russians model assumes that the registered numbers would increase by 20,000 every quarter.
Vehicles and motorcycles would be tracked from day of import till they are off the roads. Where possible, every driver of vehicle would be known and motor vehicle registration would shift from URA to Ministry of works and Transport. The Russians would finance implementation of the project and run it under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement and hand it to the government after 10 years. The Russians would set up five regional centres starting with Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA).
However, even if finally it is implemented, the project could become an implementation nightmare. Firstly, all vehicles will have to be driven to bases of the UPDF’s manufacturing arm; the National enterprises Corporation (NEC) where soldiers will install the hardware or number plates with tracking device. The soldiers will also manufacture and maintain the required hardware and software.
According to the plan, the tracking project will be self-financing using money collected from vehicle owners in new taxes, fees, and fines.
According to the project’s revenue generating strategy seen by The Independent, vehicle owners will pay for the new number plates. All motor vehicle owners will also see the cost of their vehicle annual Third Party Insurance raised by Shs20, 000 to cater for the project. All drivers seeking to get a renewal of permit will also pay an additional Shs15, 000 disguised as a ‘search fee’ to cater for the project.
Money from fines and penalties will be collected from drivers who breach traffic rules. For example, the Russians propose to install a Video Registration System equipped with multilane radar to detect drivers wrongfully changing lanes – a common problem on Ugandan roads. Similar equipment will be installed at intersections. The company proposes to develop a Uganda specific Traffic violation detection software to catch offenders. Vehicle owners who tamper with the tracking device will also pay a fine.
All money generated from traffic fines paid by motorists will be shared between the police and the Russian company. All monies would first go to the Consolidated Fund and expropriated through the Budget to the Ministry of Security to pay the Russians.
The issue of the financing model appeared to be a major concern for the Ugandan technocrats. But in a June 22, 2021 letter to the Office of the President, the Russian CEO, Ivan Shkarban, suggested that there is no final position on it yet.
“The approach hitherto adopted by the government side causes unnecessary bureaucratic delays to the project,” he says.
“It is clear there is a misunderstanding of the financial model we have submitted,” he adds.
The Russians, for example, propose to take up to 70% of income from fines in the early years of the project which should reduce to 30% by year 13. But the Ugandan side wants to give 40% max. It should be noted that traffic fines and penalties are already a major source of revenue for the Uganda police.
The Project has sucked in almost all government ministries, agencies and departments. According to details seen by The Independent, its meetings were at one point being attended by officials from up to 22 government departments and ministries. They were most attended by officials of UPDF, Police,URA, KCCA, Attorney General’s Office, NITA-U, UCC, and ministries of Security, the Presidency, Works and Transport, and Finance.
The direction of the project only shifted when President Museveni brought in Jim Muhwezi as Minister of Security with express orders to implement the project.
Muhwezi’s plan appears to be a return to the project as a security project and not merely a traffic tracking project as perceived by the technocrats. Handling the project as a security issue appears to have been the initial plan and is possibly the reason why Dr. Mwanje of the Ministry of defense chaired the project’s first Technical Working Group in May 2019.
Muhwezi has proposed that a new formalized Project Management Team should include his Ministry of Security, UPDF, Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of Finance, NEC, Police, and NITA-U. But it appears the project going ahead might not be easy even if the Russian company is not found to be bankrupt/insolvent.