Forcing Car Owners To Prepay For Vague Vehicle Towing
A private firm, Road Safety Management Company Limited (RSML) incorporated in June 2011, and owned by businessman, Joseph Siaw Agyepong, who also owns waste management company, Zoomlion, has teamed up with Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to rip-off Ghanaian car owners, various sums as mandatory fees for towing their vehicle.
Effective July 1, 2017, vehicle owners and motorcyclists, will pay compulsory annual fees, tied to the acquisition of road worthy certificate, to cater for towing services.
In an incredible twist, the company, a subsidiary of Jospong Group of Companies and sister company to SUBA Info Solutions, is being accused of stealing a concept to implement the mandatory fee for vehicle towing by Rüttchen Trucks Ghana Ltd.
The fees per year for both commercial and non-commercial vehicles, depending on tonnage, range from GH¢20 to GH¢200, irrespective of whether their cars breakdown or not and whether the cars were towed or not.
The destinations, where the cars will be towed to, are only defined by the institutions collecting the mandatory fees.
The prepaid vehicle towing system, has been wildly condemned by both commercial and private car owners, who are wondering, how the company is going to meet demands in a country of poor road network and dishonest service providers.
The contract to tow broken down vehicles from the roads, is been awarded Joseph Siaw Agyepong’s company, Road Safety Management Company Limited, with the company expected to enjoy 85percent of the charges, while the DVLA and Ghana Police Service share 5percent each.
The Ministry of Finance, as well as NRSC, will also be allocated 5percent each from the proceeds.
A manager at Rüttchen Trucks Ghana Ltd, Evans Dzide, claims the concept was presented to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) as far back as 2007 during the Kufuor administration, but has been stolen by the Jospong Group of Companies.
Meanwhile, Road Transport Consultant, Cecil Garbrah, has described as “rubbish”, the decision by the NRSC to make vehicle owners pay a mandatory yearly towing fee.
The claims that, NRSC is introducing the service in order to rid the country’s roads of abandoned broken down vehicles which cause accidents. The DVL A and the Ghana Police Service, are collaborating to ensure such stationary vehicles are cleared off the road.
There is already a chorus of disapproval among the travelling public, particularly commercial drivers, over the scheduled implementation of the new regulation.
There are close to Two million vehicles, plying the roads across the country, according to the NRSC statistics.
Speaking on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Mr. Garbrah, who is also the Executive Director at Toptech Transport & Logistics, said the timing was wrong and premature.
“How can you use one week [or] two weeks to tell the public this is what you are going to do? It is not fair,” he said.
Although, he agrees in principle that the provision of towing services, will help reduce accidents on the roads, he argued there was not enough awareness creation on the regulation.
“All we know is that from 1st of July we are going to pay this amount [and] I think it is really rubbish honestly! We don’t have to accept this. If you are coming to do this, come up with public awareness first,” maintained the past president of the Ghana Association of Driving Schools.
Contributing to the discussion, National Vice Chairman of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), Robert Sarbah said, although the directive would add to their operational cost, it is the commuters, who will feel the impact. “This will also impact on the cost of our operation and we will pass it on to the passengers. We will not feel it much, “Mr. Sarbah said.
In addition to public awareness, the GPRTU Vice Chair, also wants the fee reviewed ahead of the implementation deadline.
“If for anything at all the fees must be reduced by 50 percent,” Mr. Sarbah appealed.
Communications Manager for the National Road Safety Commission, Kwame Kodua Atuahene, says the Ghana Police Service which is originally mandated to provide towing services, is constrained with capacity.
According to Mr. Atuahene, the purpose of the levy “is to have vehicle owners make a certain minimum contribution to be able to deal with a national issue”.
“The Police do not have the capacity to handle this situation…the Commission [NRSC] does not have the resources to procure these trucks,” hence the engagement of the private sector participant.
He maintained: “this project has gone through all the necessary benchmarks” as provided by the law.
“The problem is there; the government may not have the resources to deal with the problem; the private sector is there, but it comes with a cost,” he said.
It is the hope of Mr. Atuahene that the public will comply with the new regulation in order to reduce the number of road crashes caused by abandoned vehicles.
Marketing and Communications Officer for RSML, Roland Walker, has explained, the project is a concept practised the world over and cannot be copyrighted to an entity in Ghana.
He explained, Jospong’s company was incorporated in 2011 after the mandatory towing project idea was conceived in 2010.
“Before you incorporate a company, you have to do the background thinking,” Roland said.
The Marketing and Communications Officer for RSML, said the NRSC opened a tender for the project which RSML, like other companies, put in a bid for.
RSML company, eventually won, because it was recognised as having the capacity to tow vehicles all over the country, he insisted.
But Rüttchen Trucks Ghana Ltd, says it has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NRSC and a Cabinet memo dated March 2010, indicating an agreement to implement a mandatory levy for towing services.
According to Evans Dzide, the NSRC, has seen his company roll out a trial version of the project after the Chief of Staff, accepted their proposal on behalf of the government in 2007.
Pleased with their work, the NSRC, moved to the second phase of the project which required Parliament to pass an LI, making the payment of a fee mandatory on all motorists, Evans Dzidze explained.
For years, Rüttchen Trucks Ghana (RTG) Ltd, says it has had to wait for the law to be passed until eventually, LI 2180 was passed in 2012.
During this time, Rüttchen Trucks Ghana Ltd, provided towing services to the NRSC free of charge with the expectation that it will manage the project once it was fully rolled out.
Following a change in government in 2017, the company met new government officials to find out the state of the project implementation.
But to their shock, it was discovered the project had been given over to Jospong’s RSML. “I suspect someone [at the National Road Safety Commission took our proposal and smuggled it to RSML”, Evans said.
The Executive Director of the NRSC, Madam May Obiri Yeboah, informed RTG during a meeting on Monday, March 20, 2017 that a contract had been signed with RSML as the major contractor.
“This project was stolen…and they know. You have stolen the concept and that is it”, he told Roland Walker pointedly on the Joy FM Super Morning Show, yesterday.
Following this discovery, the management of Rüttchen Trucks Ghana Ltd, met with government officials where the company offered to pay off Jospong for the cost in assembling a fleet of towing vehicles so it can carry on as the original company to do the job.
After much intervention, it was finally agreed the two companies share the job 50-50 after the NSRC acknowledged that Ruttchen Trucks Ghana Ltd has the copyright to the project. To date, the NSRC is yet to operationalise this understanding. Rüttchen Trucks Ghana Ltd has hinted the plan to launch the project July 1 will not come off until it is fairly treated in the sage of ownership of a financially rewarding project.