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The material cost of road accidents is three
hundred billion Kenya shillings per annum

 

Coastweek --  The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) got a firm rap on the knuckles from the nation’s leader when they were removed from the compliance role.

How this will work is still to be seen but it is further proof of the lack of an approved and coordinated national effort to reduce carnage on our roads.

Has the NTSA failed in its mandate?

Trolling through their website the first thing I came across was their view of the mandate they have been given by law – and reproduced verbatim it reads "The National Transport and Safety Authority was established through an Act of Parliament; Act Number 33 on 26th October 2012.

The objective of forming the Authority was to harmonize the operations of the key road transport departments and help in effectively managing the road transport sub-sector and minimizing loss of lives through road crashes".

The key phrase that jumped out was the role in "help in effectively managing the road transport sub sector".

Put simply, it means they bring all the government agencies that are involved in road transport (in whatever way) round a table and ensure that their actions are aligned towards common goals.

Once this has been agreed, they then "manage" all the operators in the sub sector – including the government agencies – to achieve the agreed goals.

In the reality of the Kenya of today, this mandate will not work.

The mentality of our governmental agencies and departments is still very strongly one of protecting one’s turf and gathering more in order to improve one’s position in the pecking order.

Would the Police Service agree to be convened by the NTSA on matters road transport?

Would the Kenya Roads Board?

Would the various Highways and Roads Authorities?

Would the County Governments and their parallel bureaucracy?

Would the Ministry of Health?

I don’t think so.

Each of these has a mandate given by law and the kind of speak we get in Kenya all the time is that each agency will gravitate back to barking about their legal mandate in the event that they feel that any other agency is encroaching on what they are supposed to deliver – even by simply saying come to a meeting!

So back to the first question, has the NTSA failed in its mandate?

The answer is a resounding YES.

More importantly, can it really fulfil its mandate?

The answer is a resounding NO.

For this year, there needs to be a sober review of the way our whole road transport environment is organised – in the widest sense – with a view to rejigging it to come up with a framework that will place the responsibility and authority for all matters road transport in one place - the NTSA.

The way the mandate of the NTSA is structured in law should be reviewed and written in such a way that it will have a full mandate across the full spectrum of road transport activities - users, infrastructure, laws, regulations, codes, compliance and enforcement.

It would also be right to have some prosecutorial capability.

Once the mandate has been clarified and entrenched in law, it is then imperative that it is staffed by the best brains that can be found.

In the formative stages, it is necessary that we do not limit ourselves with the requirement that they have to be from Kenya.

Mongolians and Mozambicans should be equally welcome if they happen to be the best that we can afford for the job.

Selection should be stringent and without the typical political interference that we have when trying to staff an agency with people who will be subservient to their appointing authority.

The people who are appointed should be left to do what is best for Kenya and Kenyans in the road transport sector.

This will require balancing the cultural and social quirks of the nation with the requirements of having a safe and working road transport system in Kenya.

The key thing for me this year is that the road transport sector must be transformed and transformed drastically so that we get some sanity and order back on the roads.

It is only by doing this that we will reduce the carnage that we continue to see on the roads.

The material cost of road accidents, according to the NTSA, is estimated at three hundred billion Kenya shillings per annum.

An average of three thousand lives are lost each year.

The material cost is almost six per cent of the GDP of Kenya!

(Compare this with corruption which comes in at eight per cent of GDP).

This is expensive for the country and it therefore requires some serious investment as the payback is very, very attractive.

The mental cost of road accidents cannot be measured.

The grief of losing ones’ kith and kin is beyond value.

The health burden, loss of bread winners, disabilities and long term psychological effects cannot be quantified.

These factors are quickly forgotten when talking about road transport accidents and their impact.

After the photos and public noise, those affected have to live with the post event reality and the public very quickly forget about this as they pursue the next newsworthy item.

So, in typical knee jerk fashion that happens in Kenya, the NTSA has had their wings clipped and night driving banned for buses due to the carnage in December of last year.

Will this action make any change?

My measured response to this is – no chance.

We have not addressed the root causes and until this is done and proper and sustained action is put in place, the powder keg is still primed and we can expect more horrendous road crashes.

As Kachumbari says, we need drastic change and sustained management.
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