For the past one week, Ongataline has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. We have been trending in all media avenues, local and international televisions, print and the social media platforms. This came after a grisly road accident that claimed the lives of five passengers and left more than six injured.it was a tragic moment that we would prefer to forget but the memories of the young souls whose lives were cut short will forever remain with us. The board of directors and the management of ONGATALINE TRANSPORTERS extends our deepest condolences.
“The loss of just one promising young life is devastating, but the scale of this tragedy has deeply affect hundreds of parents, relatives, friends and the community at large. Our thoughts are now with the victims and their families.” We will never forget their demise and it marks the turning point for the change that all Matatu operators will from now adopt to ensure safety on our roads. Although no words can really help to ease the loss, our prayers are that those affected will find comfort at this difficult moment.
Ongataline transporters limited entered into the Matatu business six years ago as a privately owned company that manages public service vehicle in one of the Nairobi routes. It was founded out of necessity after the government passed the law that all passenger service vehicles must operate under an umbrella body:either a limited company or a savings and credit cooperative (Sacco)
This law was passed by parliament in 2003 and implemented the following year under the then minister of transport hon. John Michuki who is remembered for his famous “Michuki rules” There was law and order during his tenure and a good number of people saw this as an opportunity to invest in the this highly competitive transport market. When Michuki left the helm, those who succeded him did not continue in his footsteps and the sector slowly relapsed to its old ways. later the goverment introduced a constitutional body NTSA (National transport and safety authority)which was mandated to manage and regulate transport across the country.
NTSA was a noble idea but due to failure by those in charge, Impunity and corruption returned in full force. As time went by, officials became corrupt and grossly misused their newly aquired powers. NTSA became the law by itself and pushed corruption to a new level. Unlike the traffic police who would impound your vehicle and take you to court, this new outfit had the powers to sermon any Matatu sacco from any corner of the country, impound cars and even revoke licenses without a fair hearing or a notice to appear in court.
This resulted in strained relationship between some transport management companies and the regulators. Investors started lossing millions of shillings through unfair business practices. Most Sacco’s collapsed internally and cartel like groups were registered and given licenses to operate.
Matatu owners who had been in this business for long and those who had invested heavly came together to see how they could come up with a sustainable way of surviving in the transport business. Ongataline was one such company. It started with 20 fourteen seaters vans, seven minibuses and four buses. Today six years later the company has grown to a fleet of over 70 mini buses valued at over 400 million Kenya shillings close to 5 million US dollars . This vehicles are owned by various individuals and institutions we also have over ten buses owned by Kenyans working abroad.
Ongataline transporters ltd as agents for road transport came to the scene with the aim of improving productivity and helping investors maximize on their earnings and at the same time provide reliable public transportation that is sustainable. in the last 2years the company has invested heavily in science and technology in finding innovative ways to improve in areas that contribute to major losses.
The company has been engaging private developers, designers and researchers from local and international universities in finding lasting solutions to ensure safety on the roads. One of this projects is a special designed tracking device that is a product of economic students from university of California at Burkely(UCB) some of our vehicles are currently participating in a pilot program and are already fitted with this tracking device which is able to :
1)track the location of the vehicle in real time
2)Track driving behaviors Eg, over speeding, off road driving, over acceleration, sharp turns, hard breaking among other features.
3)Distance covered and also tell the speed at which the vehicle is traveling at any given time and can also keeps records for all events from the time it was installed.
This has been a millstone in improving safe driving and easy monitoring of the vehicle which has shown positive impact in management and improvement of productivity. Ongataline transporters intends to have all vehicles fitted with this sensor technology once it is available in the market to be able to monitor all their fleet.
The other grey area is money transactions between passengers, conductors and the owners. This has been an issue with accountability and transparency where the owners have resulted to setting targets of the amount of money expected at the end of the day.
In 2014 NTSA passed a law that all Matatu must buy a specific cashlite machine from certain banks and other private companies. This was one brilliant idea that could have brought accountability but due to corruption in the regulating authority it turned out to be a fraud.
As a private company, this issue had to be addressed and in this regard, We have been conducting training workshops and sensitisation programs for all our drivers and crew to train them on application of new innovative technologies. We have partnered with an American based company magic bus which has developed a cashless mobile application that is easy to use and available to all since it requires USSD and does not require internet or smartphone.
The system is designed to allow users/passengers the option to choose which Matatu they want to board, pre-book a seat and pay via mpesa. This reduces waiting time at bus stops since the system is able to give you a list of all buses and their locations, the fare being charged and also the estimated time it will reach your picking point or stage.
The system is able to record all transactions making it easy for Matatu owners/sacco to monitor the number of trips and the amount collected from passengers. This has worked well with our management system and the issue of setting high targets was addressed thus reducing competition on the road and helping us to control our earnings.
Before the tragic accident on that fateful Sunday afternoon, the company had been voted the best transport management company in kajiado and also the fastest growing in the region. We had improved our relationship with financial institutions which had helped many investors acquire loans to buy more buses.
The decision by the regulators to deregister Ongataline came as a shock to us and to the institutions we had signed business contracts with and also to our passengers who had come to rely on our services. Despite our close cooperation with the regulators, the accident attracted a lot of media attention and public outcry which overwhelmed NTSA and they reacted aggressively ignoring all the gains that the company had made in improving road safety among other benefits.
Banning Ongataline to me is a setback to improved public service provision. And I also believe the decision was very unprofessional and was not done in line with the law but to suit some individuals and swift blames.