Why Ministry of Works and Transport should intervene in the driving permit scam

Face Technologies introduced plastic permits that were very convenient to carry in the 2000s and also made the process smoother.

In the 70’s and 90’s most cars in Uganda were manual cars. It was common to see salon cars of different sizes, pick-ups of up to 2 tons, and minivans on the streets as regular transportation means. 

Driving schools of the time also used pick-ups or a variety of salon cars as their tools of business. Driving tests at that time were very thorough because one had to sit for an oral exam, a written exam, and finally a practical driving test on the highway. Failure of any of the tests earned one an automatic non-negotiable retake after more practice. (Lately, online exams have been introduced). The permits issued were legal for salon cars, pickups (commercial vehicles), and minivans (up to 7-seater). These permits were made of special durable manila papers.

Face Technologies introduced plastic permits that were very convenient to carry in the 2000s and also made the process smoother. Until lately, permits received in the 90s have been renewed for the same classes if one wished to drop a class would just sign a form to that effect at the point of renewal. About 4 years ago, the Ministry of Works took over the issue of driving permits at the one-stop center known as Uganda Driver Licensing System (UDLS) located along Nasser Road. UDLS is by far a very efficient system that has one walking in and out in under 20 minutes with a Driving Permit.

Interestingly, of late, some permits attained in the 90s are being rejected at the renewal stage if they have a commercial class indicated on account that the permit was received when the person was still underage (apparently the right age to get a commercial class is 25). UDLS will issue a form headed “FORM FOR HANDLING UNDER AGE DRIVING LICENCE ANOMALIES” and refer you to the Inspectorate of Vehicles (IOV) in Nakawa for clearance before the renewal process can be completed. If one chooses to maintain the class, then that person is asked to get retested. One also has the option of deleting the class from the permit. This is where the thieving starts.

IOV will insist on “opening a file” at a cost of course where photocopies of your permit, ID, and an application form for a test will be placed. You are then referred to someone called Sam who is the proprietor of Ebenezer Driving School. Sam operates from his minivan parked at the Naguru police yard. The appellant will be informed by Sam to pay a mandatory test fee anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 per class indicated as an anomaly on the UDLS form.

From the Back of his car, Sam will produce a portable pay machine and issue you with test fees paid to a URA account. The funny thing is the receipted test fee is Shs 25,000. The “file” will then be taken to the commissioner who will sign off on it depending on your preference for classes. If one opts to delete the class, the commissioner will sign “failed” on that class and “passed” for the opposite and send you back to UDLS. If one insists on paying only the 25,000, then other complications will be introduced which include, registration with driving school fees, booking fees, inspection fees, allocation fees, and somehow your form will never end up with the commissioner or will continuously be rejected for this or that reason.

So, whether one wants to retain the class or remove it, one still pays the test fees and this is where the clincher is. The question at hand is, why should a “test” be required for a class to be canceled when previously one would just fill out a form to that effect and sign it for authenticity? Logic would dictate that the test would only apply to a person who chooses to keep the class. But even in this case after paying test fees, Sam will ask you if you want to test or rely on your experience. Then if one chooses the latter, another Shs100,000, and the form gets a clean bill of health.

Let’s assume one got a permit in 1990, which is 34 years of driving experience. If they were 18 years in 1990 that means they would be 52 years in 2024. If they have been renewing their permits every year it means they have renewed their permit 33 times already. Alternately if they have been renewing every 3 years then they have renewed their permits 10 times already.

At the end of the day, Sam the cashier will share the spoils with his cohorts and wait for the next day for more victims to walk in. This thieving racket meanwhile is playing out right next to other officers like Rodney who are busy and diligently teaching road safety and sharing crucial driving warnings to persons applying for permits for the first time.

It would be good to have the Ministry of Works and Transport look into this racket.

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