Written by Carren Papai
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Kenya and Uganda Revenue Authorities are working together to permanently eliminate congestion at Malaba border point. The problem that has been a major stumbling block to trade in the East Africa Community prompted President Kibaki to form a five member cabinet task force to establish a lasting solution to the problem.
The rapid response initiative unveiled by the task force managed to completely eliminate congestion on the Kenyan side as trucks spend a maximum of 3 minutes to be cleared to cross the border.
The congestion however had escalated from the beginning of this week extending about 15KM along the Bungoma-Malaba highway. According to the clearing and forwarding agents the jam was purely caused by the introduction of an online system by the Ugandan Revenue Authority to capture data as vehicles enter into their customs yard.
Truck drivers and clearing agents said that the new system was not viable as it takes over one hour to clear one truck before it exits at Kayembe check point along the Malaba-Tororo highway. A clearing agent Geoffrey Okal said the congestion was also attributed by failure of the URA officers to observe 24 hours operation system.
URA officials admitted that the system was slow since it was a pilot project aimed at enhancing efficiency at the Joint Verification desk hence causing congestion at the Kenyan side as all parking yards in Uganda had filled up.
However the URA officials also directed their blame to clearing firms and some transport companies for failing to observe the 24 hour operation in cargo clearance fully implemented by URA and KRA.
They said that clearing firms have refused to honor round the clock operations as demanded by the EAC protocol. They however added that the jam would be completely eliminated by the next week as they have opened more channels and added workforce to ensure that the data entry is expedited.
“We are working together with our Kenyan counterparts to eliminate this jam once and for all. We have already set up traffic management officers and we have also brought in some customs officers from Busia to assist the over worked officers as a short term strategy”, said a URA officer.
According to KRA statistics, 70% of the cargo from the port of Mombasa passes through Malaba border making it the busiest border point in East Africa.
About 800 cargo trucks and 1000 units cross the border everyday hence making the northern corridor super sensitive as a slight hitch causes a major congestion. To prevent congestion further, KRA has issued a new law that vehicle units crossing the border are not supposed to stop or divert their intended route.
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