Dear COFEK team,
Firstly, I would like to praise COFEK for the wonderful job they do, in terms of educating the citizens of their rights, as consumers. I would like to express my full support to your team.
I would like to raise a particular issue, that has indeed troubled many residents - Erratic Fare increases by public transporters, mainly the Matatus owners and/or staff.
The matatu industry, plays a a vital and key role, in addressing transport needs for a rapidly growing Kenyan economy. Everyday, this service enables many dwellers to move between their homes and places of work, thereby earning a living.
However, It is of great concern and public knowledge, that the public transport sector, has been isolated and left to manage itself by the government. The industry regulators, namely the Ministry of Transport and Transport Licensing Board have taken a passive stance in the assistance and development of management by the players, such as Matatu Owners Association (MOA) and Matatu Welfare Association (MWA). Instead, the players, have become a law unto themselves, by overcharging passengers, with no apparent reason to do so. The regulators, have only served to license (interpreted to mean revenue collection only), and have not done much to protect consumers of the culpability of the profit-driven owners, cartels, and inept touts.
Passengers (consumers) have been financially affected hugely by the vacuum created between the regulators and the players. No mechanism exists in legislation or regulation, to safeguard the interest of the passengers. Instead, market forces, driven by impunity, greed and lack of other transport alternatives, have left the consumers highly exploited. The pricing model applied by the transporters defies all logic and rationale, in terms of application and
Take for instance, a 14 seater matatu plying route 44. Between 5 - 6.15 am, fare charged from Zimmerman Estate to Nairobi CBD is charged at Ksh 50. Between 6.15 - 6.30 am fare charged from Zimmerman Estate to Nairobi CBD is charged at Ksh 60. Between 6.30 - 7.00 am fare charged from Zimmerman Estate to Nairobi CBD is charged at Ksh 70. Between 7.00 - 7.30 am fare charged from Zimmerman Estate to Nairobi CBD is charged at Ksh 80. Past 7.30 - 9am, fare is Ksh 100. Travelling from Nairobi CBD to zimmerman estate during the morning hours is normally Ksh 20 - 30. This is a typical example, of how fare increment is normal across many of the public routes in nairobi. Whenever, their is rain, the fare even more than doubles (200%) or triples (300%).
The rapid (erratic) increment in fares is also graduated in multiples of ksh 10, yet no other factor warrants such a steep change. Even the fuel price changes, which can adversely affect the cost of operating such a vehicle, are predetermined and not erratic in nature. A typical increment in a liter of fuel can rise in a month (maximum document change increment experienced : 10%). The consumption of transporting 14 passengers for a distance of 15 kilometers (from Zimmerman estate o Nairobi CBD) is approximately 2 to 3 litres. The rapid increment in change of fare price, by upto 100% on normal days, and upto 300% on rainy days does not follow any rationale, since other costs remain constant.
This example demonstrates the sheer impunity that touts, cartels and owners of these matatus, exhibit to the detriment of powerless consumers. As a recommendation to help alleviate this gap, I would like to suggest the following;
Since the Government has no control over the prices, each matatu owners' SACCO within every public route should come up with a standard charge rate (verified and authorized by the SACCO). The prices can be pre-determined and worked out by SACCO employees, depending on the average costs, number of vehicles plying route, demand forces, etc and thereafter, published and displayed in each and every vehicle plying the route. Any price change would require the consent of the SACCO management, and would apply to all matatu PSVs operating in a specific route.
Additionally, a SACCO should be regulated by the regulator (TLB or MOT) to allow only a monthly change, either upward or downward revision in prices, depending on the other factors that have contributed to the change. With fare information published in all public designated transport vehicles, passengers will have the right to pay, for what they are informed and entitled to. Fare paying passengers, shall only need to pay for what is authorized. This proposal can also help alleviate the lack of information to a passenger ( who are prone to price hikes by touts, whenever they feel like).
I also believe that, the role of information plays a vital role, since lack of it, does create a vacuum, that can be exploited to the detriment of the public. The culture of extortion by the players, ought to end, and a new beginning (and culture) in consumer awareness and rights starts in public transport. (Dennis Mbaabu)
Cofek: Thanks Dennis. We will forward your views to the National Road Safety Council for discussion and revert.