Taarifa has learnt that executives from public transport companies have been summoned to a general assembly to discuss, among other things, how to secure billions government owes them in subsidies for almost half a year.
The association of public transport companies has apparently exhausted all avenues including writing to concerned authorities and literally pleading for mercy, but their plea has fallen on deaf ears.
Since February, no company has received a penny from government despite having submitted their invoices. Government owes them about Rwf3 billion for the months of February to May.
Two companies have already closed shop. Over 400 buses are now grounded because they have not been serviced, plus companies can’t afford fuel anymore. About 1000 people have lost their jobs too.
Hundreds of passengers are seen on bus stops standing for hours waiting for buses.
« We have done everything we could possibly do, but no one cares, they have ignored us. We are suffering at the expense of what we don’t know yet, » says Eric Ruhamiriza, the Secretary General of the association.
He told Taarifa in an exclusive interview that the situation has set all companies into a financial distress and ultimately altered the operations of players in the transport sector.
The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) has no answers. He told Taarifa last week that they would disburse at least the dues for February by end of the weekend and the remainder would be covered this week.
However, the Director General of RURA, Deo Muvunyi was categorical that the matter is beyond his pay-grade. « We only received the money for the month of February and they will receive it by the weekend,» he said on Friday June 4. He has not responded to our calls and text messages since then.
Taarifa has reliably learnt that the government treasurer is responsible for this painful situation subjected to the whole sector, a matter transporters described as « dangerous behaviour, arrogance, disrespectful and irresponsible. »
The State Minister in the Ministry of Finance, who serves as government treasurer, Richard Tushabe, was noncommittal. «Please be brief and to the point,» he said condescendingly. «I don’t speak for government, there is someone responsible for that, » he said and hanged up the phone.
The government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, has not given details either. « I will find out, » she said three days ago.
A highly placed source told Taarifa the treasurer diverted the funds into something else at the expense of investors’ interests and survival. « The arrears are under the economic recovery fund , which was secured and set aside, » the source said on condition of anonymity.
»This is dangerous and irresponsible, it can incite insurrection and trigger insecurity as well as cause irreversible economic problems, » the source said. Additionally, the source said, «this also affects our current relationship with development partners. »
It’s a delicate trade off, he said. «How come these bureaucrats are not diverting their salaries?»
Now investors have decided to discuss the matter and come up with a solid solution.
On February 8, 2022, the association of Public Transporters (ATPR) wrote to President Paul Kagame, in a letter whose copy is under our custody, requesting him to intervene and instruct his government to respect its commitment to offer subsidies to transport companies due to the effect of Covid-19, under the economic recovery fund.
The funds were apparently disbursed in a matter of hours. « We might have to do the same again, » Ruhumuriza said.
Meanwhile, he confirmed to us this morning that dues for February were received yesterday, but no explanation for the delay of the remaining months has been given.