Hundreds of driving schools across the country are facing closure following the National Transport and Safety Authority’s (NTSA) decision to issue fresh licences, a move the state agency says is aimed at weeding out rogue operators.
The NTSA has directed more than 500 driving schools to apply afresh for their operation licenses, which will only be issued to those that comply with a long list of new rules aimed at weeding out rogue tutors and institutions.
Several driving schools that do not meet the NTSA's infrastructure and staff qualification requirements will be forced to close shop.
For the second time in five years, the Kenya Driving Schools Association (KDSA) has asked the High Court to block the NTSA from implementing new rules that would require all institutions offering the tutoring services to apply for fresh permits.
In its petition, the KDSA claims that it has 700 paid up members, most of whom now face closure if the NTSA rules are implemented. The lobby is led by chairman Samuel Kariuki Kamau.
Under the new rules, NTSA is to send its officials to inspect each driving school to ensure that all institutions meet infrastructure and staff requirements before issuing fresh licenses.
Among the infrastructure driving schools must have before being licensed are waiting areas, management offices, theory classrooms with a town model board and a capacity to hold at least four students that have to be seated at least one square metre apart, washrooms and road sign posters approved by the NTSA.
Driving tutors will be required to have attained an equivalent of at least a D minus in their secondary school education, and must have at least a certificate in computer studies or a similar qualification.
Driving schools will also have to ensure that they have a minimum of two driving instructors. The institutions must also submit annual reports to the NTSA by the end of January each year.
The lobby claims that the NTSA did not conduct proper public participation or engage stakeholders like KDSA members before coming up with the new rules. KDSA also faults the NTSA for presenting the new rules before the Senate, arguing that transport is not a devolved function.
But the NTSA argues that it accommodated stakeholders while seeking the public’s participation in drafting new rules aimed at regulating the industry and ensuring that quality training is conducted in driving schools.
The state agency adds that KDSA chairman Samuel Kariuki Kamau’s driving school was among the suing lobby’s members that were represented during stakeholder sessions before the new rules were enacted.
NTSA released the new rules to the public on March 10, 2020 through a gazette notice.
“Transport is a function under the national government as per the fourth schedule of the Constitution and therefore the rules should have been tabled at the National Assembly. KDSA being a major stakeholder and consumer of the rules should have been consulted or invited to make contribution by way of memorandum in keeping with the spirit of Article 118(1)(b) of the Constitution,” Mr Kamau says.
“I swear that none of my members had any prior information about the gazetted rules and therefore this came in disbelief to all of us in the sector. The coming into force of the gazetted rules pose the risk of closure of business of our 700 registered members, loss of employment for about 1,400 instructors and about 2,500 other support staff.
The state agency says it submitted the new rules to both the Senate and National Assembly, arguing that transport is a function carried out by both the national and county governments.
The rules previously in place were enacted in 1971, and NTSA argues that they were outdated and contributing to the country’s road carnage statistics.
The NTSA says it has been working on the new rules since 2016 and that the KDSA’s members have contributed to their development despite challenging implementation in the past.
After the NTSA introduced the same rules in 2016, the KDSA filed a petition in the Nakuru High Court to stop their implementation, but the suit was dismissed two years later.
But the Select Parliamentary Committee on Delegated Legislation (SPCDL) shot down the rules after holding that the NTSA ignored some of its recommendations.
“The NTSA redrafted the rules incorporating the comments raised by the SPCDL and undertook another comprehensive public participation in compliance with provisions of the Statutory Instruments Act resulting in substantial changes in the initial draft,” NTSA Director General George Njao says in court papers.
“Mr Kamau’s driving school being Kericho Driving School was represented during the public participation. Other officials’ schools that participated include Ndovu Driving School belonging to Joseph Magara, Real Driving School belonging to Joseph Nderi, Style Up Driving School belonging to Eunice Mwendwa among other officials,” NTSA says.
Senate clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye holds that NTSA followed the law, and that the lawmaking institution approved the changes in compliance with the Constitution.
Transport PS Solomon Kitungu adds that the ministry assisted NTSA in conducting public participation, and that the new rules are intended to promote safety on Kenyan roads.