Kenyan truck drivers to pay the price for Uganda Covid-19 tests


Trucks on the Eldoret-Bungoma highway. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Transporters have accused Kenya of inefficiencies in carrying out Covid-19 tests, forcing local truck drivers to flock to Uganda where the service is rendered with fewer hurdles.

The transporters say because of the influx of Kenyan cargo crew to Uganda to have Covid-19 certificate, the neighbouring country has introduced a levy for the test, a move the players say will push up the cost of goods for consumers.

The Kenya Transporters Association (KTA), said more Kenyan cargo crew had opted to test in Uganda where it is easy and faster to obtain clearance certificate.

"This does not come as a shock to us. In the past three week, almost all certificates of truck drivers were obtained in Uganda since in Kenya they draw samples but you will never get the results," said KTA Chief Operations Officer Mercy Ireri, adding that Uganda cannot shoulder the burden of Kenya’s inefficiencies

Ms Ireri said they have no otherwise but to pay for the service since cargo has to move but the cost will be transferred to the consumer.

"Logistics sector has to go on and we have to move on with the business but be assured the cost will be transferred to final consumer since Kenya has failed to give the services on time with very few testing centres along Northern Corridor," she said.

Reacting on the issue, East African Community & Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed said every government has a right to take any action as long as the spread of Covid-19 is contained.

"Testing comes with its cost and Kenyan government is giving the service for free and Uganda being a sovereign state, we cannot interfere with what they have decided. To us we shall dedicate Miritini testing centre to those willing to use our service for free," said CS Mohammed.

This month, Uganda government introduced a Covid-19 testing fee of about Sh7,000 per test to special category of people including truck drivers who will be seeking the service.

In a circular by Uganda Secretary under Ministry of Health Geoffrey Sseremba, the government decided to introduce the cost recovery fee for Covid-19 testing services as a result of increasing demand of such services which the government cannot cater for free.

"The ministry continues to receive requests from organisations to have their staff tested, which it finds hard to sustain due to inadequate in-country stock of test kits, resources constraints and the high cost of Covid-19 testing,” read the circular dated 27th August.

“In view of the above fact therefore, the government has introduced a testing fee of $65 per test for certain categories of individuals and organisations as a cost recovery mechanism that will enable the ministry acquire more test kits for continues access to testing services in the country."

Kenya International Freight Forwarders Warehousing Association (KIFWA) National Chairman Roy Mwanthi said they will comply with the directive but they will appeal to different authorities to have it reviewed.

"We have no otherwise since we have to take cargo to Uganda which is our main transit cargo market but we shall appeal to the East Africa Community assembly to look into the matter," said Mr Roy.

Players in the sector, Mr Roy said, have proposed establishment of harmonised Journey Management Plan (JMP) system and a standard template to be adopted by all transport companies and member states for ease movement of cargo along Northern and Central corridors.

He said the plan will also regulate how each member countries will introduce fees without being approved by the EAC council.

The introduction of testing fee will affect most of transit cargo crew members considering Uganda accounts for 83.2 per cent of transit cargo through the Port of Mombasa, into the hinterland via the Northern Corridor followed by South Sudan taking up 9.9 per cent. DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

On 31st August, Mr Sseremba issued another circular to all port health officials to only take samples to those who have shown proof of payment of the fee in the stated bank account.

A Covid-19 testing fee collection account has accordingly been opened in Stanbic Bank Uganda where payments will be made in order for the mentioned categories to access testing services and only those have shown proof of payment should get the service," read a notice at Malaba border by Ugandan government.

According to Ugandan government, categories of people who will pay for the testing services with the effect from September 1 this year include truck drivers at different points of entry, individuals seeking to know their Covid-19 status, organisation both government and private that wish their staff for purposes of prevention, Ugandans returning from abroad and visitors arriving into the country from other countries.

Categories exempted from paying for the services include patients who present to health facilities with Covid-19 symptoms, contact of people who have tested positive for Covid-19, community surveys to establish the extent of spread of the virus, surveillance samples and front line health workers.