Members of Parliament have questioned the Government’s plan to install Intelligence transport monitoring systems (ITMS) in all automobiles to ease tracking down criminals saying, the fate of individual rights to privacy hangs in balance.
The legislators said besides the skepticism hovering over data protection and citizens’ right to privacy, the nature of the contract to implement the ITMS doesn’t guarantee value for money for the taxpayers.
This was after the Minister for Security, Jim Muhwezi told a plenary session this afternoon that, compulsory mounting of a tracking GPS device on motor vehicles and cycles is meant to improve security in the country.
Muhwezi was responding to issues raised by Abdallah Kiwanuka, (Mukono North MP) on the implementation of the tracking System.
He explained that the plan to implement the installation of these devices arose from the 2018 directive by the President to relevant Government Agencies to beef up security in Uganda by establishing a Smart Tracking System for motor vehicles and cycles countrywide.
According to Muhwezi, the overall goal of the project is to improve security and reduce crime committed against innocent Ugandans by rogues, who had made it a habit of shooting people and getting away, mainly on motorcycles.
“Over the last number of years, Uganda has witnessed a series of shocking and gruesome crimes committed by criminals moving by motor vehicles and motorcycles. We were all shocked by those gruesome crimes, with the last attempt being on the life of Hon Minister of Works and Transport which unfortunately resulted in the death of his daughter and driver,” said Muhwezi.
While the lawmakers agreed that security is paramount and therefore the need to improve it in the country, they cast the project as one fashioned with objectionable outcomes.
They doubt the nature of the contract and its adherence with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets law in hiring the security company that will be leading the project – Joint Stock Company Global Security.
The MPs expressed uncertainty about the general adoption of the project by Ugandans given it is considered an intrusion of one’s privacy, the fact that the cost will be at the owner’s expense, and also that it will require re-registration of all motor vehicles, cycles, and boats.
They demanded that Muhwezi clarifies on the duration of the contract with the hired security company, the overall cost of the contract, how Joint Stock Company Global Security was procured and on allegations that the said company is bankrupt.
“Clarify to Ugandans and tell this Parliament how you came up and handpicked one company. Yes, the law provides for that nature of procurement but for Ugandans to get value for money, you must have compared the cost of the same item in other companies, like 3 or 4 companies,” said Solomon Silwany (Bukooli County Central MP)
The Parliamentarians wondered how foreign automobiles entering the country will temporarily be tracked, transfer of vehicles without the actual transfer of ownership will be handled, and whether thorough research was done on the applicability, credibility, and reliability of the system to ensure its success.
The Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa asked why the project is not focused mainly on motorcycles since it’s been noted that the crimes are committed by criminals on motorcycles.
“Most of the killings have been by assassins on motorcycles. Wouldn’t it be right to pilot the project on the motorcycles?” Okupa wondered.
Regarding payment for the number plates by Ugandans themselves, a section of the MPs said Ugandans are already paying many taxes which are expensive, therefore; any additional cost for purposes of being tracked would be a problem which is not proper.
“The cost vis-a-vis the value for money needs to be addressed given that there’s history of similar projects where the procurement of such sensitive equipment registered losses to the Government or were used as fleece and extortion centers for Ugandans seeking these services defeating the purpose of the projects,” Milton Muwuma (Kigulu South)
Following Minister for Information, Communication Technology and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi’s assertion that the additional cost of the number plates will be small, Suubi Kinyamatama (Rakai District Woman MP) asked if it will be possible for Ugandans that already have number plates to buy the new ones with a tracking system at a subsidized cost.
She wondered why the Government doesn’t take up the expense using the ‘classified expenditure budget” given that it’s a small cost so that Ugandans can also benefit from the system as far as security is concerned, arguing that this will eliminate excuses of those who will say they can’t afford the system.
Sheema Municipality MP, Dickson Kateshumbwa asked why the Government cannot invest in the IT system in the country and innovate such systems instead of relying on imported devices.
He said the country has a National IT strategy and produces graduates annually but we have failed from importing system. There’s need for Uganda to ween itself off these imported systems.
Muhwezi in his response to the concerns on bankruptcy stressed that the issue of bankruptcy is false but that if it was to be true there are clauses in the agreement that protect the Government from any losses that would be incurred by the company itself.
As he concluded, he assured the House that the Government is very interested in the security of its people and is doing everything in accordance with the law and that Parliament will be involved at every stage of the process.