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Truckers face heavy fines for parking at Malaba

Nairobi: Kenya has unveiled a raft of stringent administrative measures to help ease congestion at the Malaba border point, raising hope for efficient flow of cargo into Uganda and other neighbouring markets. Kenya-Uganda border has in recent months been experiencing congestion that left businesses with huge operational costs and disruptions due to delayed shipments.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Kenya Police said congestion at Malaba was hindering trade in the region and promised to clear the backlog through new administrative measures as per the East African Community Customer Management Act.

In an action plan released on Friday, KRA and the Kenya Police said no trucks will be allowed to park within a five-kilometre range from the customs entry gate with offenders risking a penalty of $1,000. Petroleum tankers will also not be allowed to queue at the border post,  but move directly to the exit gate.

“The parking bays will only be used by passenger motor vehicles and buses while travellers seek clearance at the immigration and customs offices. No cargo trucks will be allowed at the parking bays,” the two government agencies said.

The government also said only licensed clearing agents will be allowed to operate within the KRA border station premises. Only two agents from each cargo clearing company will be allowed to operate at the border post.

“Verification of cargo, where necessary, will be conducted by all border agencies at the same time,” it further said, adding that money-changers and hawkers have been banned from operating within the KRA border stations.

The new measures take effect immediately, the government said.

The new administrative measures  are expected to restore efficiency at Malaba that previously won international acclaim for helping boost trade in the region.

The station at Malaba is moulded from the one-stop-border post concept that partner states of the East African Community (EAC) are currently preparing to replicate across the region as part of attempts to ease trade amongst them.

Border delays and the absence of enforceable means to settle disputes and promote integration have been blamed for hindering the opening up of trade in East Africa a year after inception of a common market.

The one-stop-border post concept is aimed at harmonising transit clearance procedures with essence being having officers from two bordering countries sit under one roof and handle transit documents concurrently in order to save on time.

Currently, traders in the region are hampered by strenuous customs clearance procedures in which goods are separately inspected by officers on either side of the border leading to massive delays.

This situation often leads to graft as impatient truckers and traders resort to offering bribes either to jump queues or expedite clearance of their cargo.

Prior to the establishment of the experimental facility at Malaba, truckers required two days to clear with customs officials on the common border, but that was later slashed to an average two hours or less owing to the joint handling of documentation. The new congestion at the post, however, threatens to reverse the gains.

Analysts said the harmonisation of customs clearance routines on common borders would help to cut back on processing time and substantially reduce the cost of doing business.

More border posts

In Kenya, the government has already begun acquiring land for the construction of special one-stop-border posts across the country that are aimed at improving trade flow with neighbouring countries.

Commissioner of Lands Zachary Mabea said in January that government would, starting February 14 hear claims to compensation by parties interested in land parcels required partly for the construction of a one-stop-border post at Namanga.

The Lands ministry is similarly expected to acquire land for the construction of such facilities at Lunga Lunga,Malaba,Busia,Taveta, Isebania and Busia.

The Kenya National Highway Authority (Kenha) has already floated tenders for contractors to erect the facilities as part of the East Africa Trade and Transport Facilitation project (EATTFP).

Date: 
12 March 2012
Author: 
Allan Odhiambo
Source:
Business Daily
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