No major changes on roads as Meja bows out of NTSA
National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) Director General Francis Meja is exiting the agency with the pledge to reduce road fatalities yet to be delivered.
Meja’s six-year tenure at Hill Park Building also failed to rein in cartels and rogue elements that have dominated the public service transport industry for decades.
This despite NTSA, which was set up in 2012 as a solution to road carnage and chaotic, multi-billion-shilling Public Service Vehicle (PSV) sector, gobbling up millions from the exchequer every year.
But Meja, who will be succeeded by George Njao, counts an increase in public awareness about road safety as among his achievements.
Meja also says NTSA, under his watch, has managed to utilise road safety data to make informed decisions.
“Although much more needs to be done, through our efforts, we have been able to analyse the data we receive from the police on accidents for decision making processes. We now know which are our riskiest roads, categories of victims and other relevant information in road safety,” he said.
“We have succeeded in mapping out blackspots along the Northern Corridor (Mombasa to Malaba) and identified all the risk factors along the corridor. Working with road authorities, we have begun putting in place corrective measures on the identified high risk areas. A good example is Salgaa (a notorious blackspot on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway), which for a very long time had given us serious challenges. Salgaa area has now tremendously improved,” he added.
Of concern is that Kenya still has the highest road fatality rates globally. While NTSA puts the annual figures at around 3,000, the World Health Organisation says it could be high as 13,000 deaths.
The agency has failed to bring down the numbers despite a sweeping mandate that includes regulation and enforcement of traffic laws.
NTSA officers have, however, been accused of using its broad mandate to mint millions of shillings in bribes.
Among the technical functions mostly abused are overseeing and coordinating licensing of drivers, PSVs, motor vehicle dealers both new and used, driving schools and tour vehicle operators.
Others are licensing of commercial vehicles, coordinating compliance of PSV regulations to ensure safety on the roads and issuance of PSV licences and badges to drivers and conductors.
Just like the police, rogue NTSA officers have been accused of soliciting for bribes to turn a blind eye on motorists, particularly PSVs, who break the traffic laws.
Some NTSA officials are also said to work in cahoots with police officers make money from breathalyser (alcoblow) checks.
A recent report by People Daily revealed that a majority of motorists who fail the alcoblow test buy their freedom with not less than Sh10,000.
The agency officers have also been caught in other criminal actions, including facilitating illegal registration of vehicles.
In January, police raided NTSA offices and arrested staff after confiscating computers during a probe into cases of double registration of vehicles.
During a sharp rise in deadly accidents in December 2017 and January 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered NTSA out of the roads, leaving the police to enforce the rules.
“We have decided that all NTSA officers withdraw from the roads and leave traffic work to the police. We want to see if we can restore order on the roads,” Uhuru said then.
It was a paradox that the agency tasked to reduce road deaths was being blamed for contributing to the same by failing to perform its mandate.
There were reports last month, however, that NTSA officers had resumed active presence on the roads.
Lugari MP Ayub Savula, who is a member of the National Assembly Transport Committee, says there is need to restructure NTSA.
“The agency is very weak as it is currently constituted. Its officers are just looking for handouts...,” he told People Daily in a recent interview.
The Matatu Welfare Association has also called for a restructuring of the agency to help curb road carnage.