President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed the Finance Bill 2020, which takes effect from today, July 1st.
In the new bill, road users have to carry a burden as they face charges of up to Sh50,000 or six-month jail term for driving through toll stations without paying the required fees.
Those who drive through a toll station not designated for the passage of the vehicle face similar punishment.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has this evening at State House, Nairobi signed into law the 2020/21 Budget, the 2020 Finance Bill and the 2019/20 Third Supplementary Budget.https://t.co/itLzgS8EBt pic.twitter.com/OWowPRFp3x
— State House Kenya (@StateHouseKenya) June 30, 2020
Toll Stations are poised to return on the Kenyan superhighway, and a few others including the Southern Bypass and Nairobi-Nakuru Highway.
Keen observers will note the tolls are on high traffic routes to maximise the revenues. This raises a number of economic questions.
Why the toll Stations? Are there alternatives to those who can’t pay the fee?
The National Assembly’s Finance and National Planning Committee amended the Public Roads Toll Act, to increase the penalty from Sh5,000 to Sh50,000.
“The amendment seeks to enhance the penalty for failure or fraudulently passing through a toll station without paying or failure to use the designated route for passage through a toll station,” Joseph Limo, who chairs the committee, said in a report on the Finance Bill, 2020.
Tolls are popular where users are willing to pay for extra convenience. They recoup that through higher returns from their business as a result of convenience, time saved. Are Kenyans wiling to pay for that?
From keen observations, Kenyans are willing to be held in the traffic jam. And it’s common sense.
Take this as an example. The distance from Nairobi to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is about 15 kilometres.
If you have a great ride, it would consume two litres for about Sh200. In the new bill, you would pay Sh600 toll for the two-way trip.
It is worse if you are a taxi driver. Will that be paid by the driver or the passenger?
There is already evidence that the government anticipates resistance from the public. The MPs have passed a law that has criminalized toll fees.
In addition to the penalty, the court will have the power to order the offender to pay the prescribed toll.
This is punitive and exorbitant. When shall we realise that carrots work as much as sticks?
The MPs have also moved to ensure that transit tolls levied under Public Roads Toll Act are remitted to the Roads Maintenance Levy Fund as provided for under the Roads Act and not the yet to be established Public Roads Toll Fund.
The MPs have deleted the Treasury proposal in the Finance Bill 2020 that would have moved transit tolls from the Roads Maintenance Levy Fund to the Public Roads Tolls Fund.
The government is seeking to put in place legal mechanisms to guide the toll fees on major national roads and establishment of a toll fund from July 1.
The list of highways, where motorists may soon start paying includes Nairobi-Nakuru, Nairobi-Mombasa, Nairobi-Thika and Southern Bypass in Nairobi.
The toll fees based on distance and capacity of the car, amount to a new layer of taxation and will see motorists pay toll charges on top of the fuel levy even though tax revenues funded the roads.
In other countries, tolls exist where there are choices for the motorists. What’s the alternative to Nairobi-Nakuru road or Thika highway?
Will there be a toll for regular and irregular users of the road?
What is bringing back the tolls? Is it profit or desire to have more and better roads to increase economic efficiency?
Then, if speed bumps on Thika superhighway cause huge traffic jams, can we be assured that tolls will not cause traffic jams?
Why not collect that tax through fuel levy, more efficiently as we have done since the end of tolls?
In a country full of corruption and fraud we can’t stop asking. Why set up a new toll fund?
Since cars and trucks are registered, can’t they pay tolls online?
There was some millions spent on new digital number plates, right?
Can electric cars pay less toll to encourage green energy?