Kampala. Continued misuse of several government vehicles has partly led to the growing public debt in the country.
According to Uganda Debt Network (UDN), between 60 and 70 percent of vehicles are purchased with borrowed money. Misuse of government fleet is partly responsible for driving public debt up which as of March 2018, stood at $ 10.53 billion (nearly Shs40 trillion).
A statement titled: ‘Proposals for More Prudent Acquisition, Management and Boarding-Off Government Fleet,’ issued by UDN after a study of the situation, said it is common to find government vehicles and motorcycles laden with unauthorised items such as charcoal, matooke and firewood among others. This is in addition to using them for private activities such as weddings and visiting private farms.
As a result, the vehicles may suffer unwarranted wear and tear coupled with ever increasing costs of repairs, fuel consumption and usage that are borne by citizens through more taxation or public borrowing.
UDN notes that Public Service Standing Orders (2010 Edition) which provide guidelines on the acquisition, usage and maintenance of government vehicles and motorcycles) across the Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Local Governments (MDALGs) are not being heeded to.
Mr Patrick Tumwebaze, the executive director, UDN said: “Despite citizens’ outcry, misuse and abuse of Fleet and drivers persist. So it is incumbent to play our civic role and responsibility in protecting against the misuse or wastage of public property.”
It emerged that drivers of the government vehicles also risk being abused by their superiors alongside the fleet, and this is often so on activities that are not job related, or regarded as public service delivery.
Ministry of Health for instance had a Fleet of over 350 Vehicles and Motorcycles, including 259 vehicles deployed at its headquarters alone by beginning of Financial Year 2017/18.
In the Auditor General Annual report of December 2017, indicated that the maintenance costs of Resident District Commissioners Motor Vehicles were on the increase while the Budget Framework Paper (FY 2017/18) showed that Government planned to spend Shs95 billion on buying vehicles and other transport equipment.
Evidence documented by UDN shows that Public Service Standing Orders (2010 Edition) which provides guidelines on the Acquisition, Usage, Care, Maintenance and Boarding-off of Government Fleet (Vehicles and Motorcycles) across the Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Local Governments (MDALGs) are not being heeded to as it should be the case.
“We, nonetheless, notice that in some instances the Public Service Standing Orders are often disregarded by some of the Government officials who are obligated to be good stewards of Government Vehicles and Motorcycles on behalf of the rest of the citizens of Uganda,” the executive director, UDN, Mr Patrick Tumwebaze, said last week in a meeting with the section of the media.
He continued: “Despite citizens’ outcry, Misuse and abuse of Fleet and drivers persist. So it is incumbent to play our civic role and responsibility in protecting against the misuse or wastage of public property.”
It further emerged in the statement that the drivers of the government vehicles also risk being abused by their superiors alongside the fleet, and this is often so on activities that are not directly related to the job descriptions, or regarded as due public service delivery and accountability.
Additionally, the Public Service Standing Orders stipulate that all Government vehicles should be parked and secured after working hours (8.00 am to 5.00 pm), unless with explicit written authorisation from a rightful Accounting Officer, It shouldn’t be used outside working hours and or weekends.
Who deserves what?
UDN, contends that Acquisition of Fleet must be as per the Government set specifications, standards, manuals and ethical Code of Conduct. For example, a Prime Minister is expected to have a vehicle with an engine capacity of 3500cc, Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and Permanent Secretaries are supposed to drive 2800cc vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Directors and Senior Consultants are supposed to have executive mid-range station wagons of 2500cc. The lower ranks are supposed to have double cabin pick-ups of 2500cc. But this is not being strictly adhered to as ministers and Permanent Secretaries today drive 4500cc Toyota Land Cruiser VX and other brands], contrary to standards and ethical Code of Conduct for public service.
Rwanda: In December 2004, realizing a high cost of Government Fleet, Rwanda sold off all 4WD vehicles with a capacity of over 2000cc. It impounded 250 vehicles in total leaving Government institutions with less than 10 vehicles each.
In case of need for additional motor vehicles, the Government of Rwanda identifies travel agencies to hire out their vehicles with drivers, to a Government institution or activity. The travel agencies maintain these vehicles.
Only five Government officials are entitled to a Government vehicle “the President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, Senate Speaker and the Head of the Supreme Court- of which all vehicles must be under 2000cc.
Any other high ranking Government official is through a facility supported for purchase of a vehicle; and through a scheme given a fixed allowance for maintenance, on a cascading scale of seniority. For any official up-country travel, Government will hire vehicles on a case-by-case basis.
Tanzania: Each Government ministry has a specific number of Fleet it maintains. Their maintenance is Government responsibility with Mechanics, Engineers and Drivers on Government payroll, similar to what Uganda had as the Central Mechanical Workshop. In the event of need for additional vehicles, private transport companies are approached and the Ministry or institution concerned is invoiced for services provided.
All Government Vehicles and Motorcycles are parked at Government office at 5.00 pm until 6.00 am the following day, or unless otherwise authorised in writing by a due officer.
Commissioner Information, monitoring and inspection, Office of the Prime Minister, Moses Watasa, said government is concerned about misuse of government fleet of vehicles and that pronouncements will soon be issued on the matter. He also described the misuse of government fleet as an embarrassment, saying action will be taken against those found culpable of abusing the Public Service Standing Orders.