Government has assured motorists that individual privacy will be respected during the installation of global positioning system (GPS) trackers in all public and private vehicles, motorcycles and water vessels in the country.
On Friday, the government signed a 10-year contract with a Russian company, Joint Stock Global Security, to install the trackers.
The mandatory tracking idea, initiated by President Museveni to end gun crime, however, received mixed reactions, with a section of the public saying this will intrude into their privacy and compromise personal security. The heightened surveillance, activists added, would infringe on human freedoms.
But during the signing of the contract on Friday, the Security minister, Gen Jim Muhwezi, moved to ally such fears, saying all the information collected from the system will be used only for security purposes.
“The purpose of this Intelligent Transport Monitoring System (ITMS) is only one; it is security and I would like to assure everybody that this system is not going to interest itself in the private matters of all the motor vehicle users… as you know, the boda boda motorcycles and vehicles have been a feature in all the insecurities we have witnessed recently…but even using CCTVs, we could not identify those motorbikes or vehicles involved. With this system, once there is a security situation, we will be able to tell which vehicles were in that place; there should not be any worry that there is going to be intrusion in the privacy of the motor vehicle users,” Gen Muwhezi said.
He added: “If you think, we have infringed on any of your rights, the constitution gives you freedom to go to court…but I can assure that there is no infringement on anybody’s right. It is not the intention of government.”
Article 27 of the Constitution states that no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of their home, correspondences, communication or other property.
With the trackers, government and implementing partners will have access to the location of any automobile at all times.
Minister Muhwezi, after appending his signature on the document whose details remain scanty, said government was given a go-ahead by the Solicitor General, and no law will be contravened. This followed questions on how the Russian Company was procured for the job.
“It was done within the law, and there has been clearance from the Solicitor General…It was procured…there is a law called PPDA, it has different ways of procurement and it was one of the methods, it may have been classified whatever it is but it was within the law,” he said. The representatives of the Russian Company declined to speak to this newspaper.
To implement the system, all vehicles will be re-registered and be issued with new number plates embedded with the tracking device.
“The public will be informed when each vehicle will be called to be re-registered and get new number plates. What is going to happen, the vehicles will have a monitoring system within the vehicle then there will be a digital system in the number plate. So there will be communication between a monitor in the car and the number plate and the centre,” Gen Muhwezi said.
Automobile owners will bear the cost of re-registration.
“The payment is going to be communicated. As you know always, registration is not free of charge…anybody who owns a vehicle will meet that charge…,” Gen Muhwezi said.
The permanent secretary in the Office of the President, Hajj Yunus Kakande, said a management team will be put in place to work alongside the Russian company to manage the system.