The Parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has asked Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) to refund the internet fees charged on transport fares following the fact that some passengers incurred the costs yet they don’t access it.
First of all, the committee said, that in the buses there is no internet, and in some instances, passengers do not have internet enabled gadgets. This is without forgetting the difficult conditions in which passengers board.
The recommendation was made this September 21, 2023 during a public hearing in which RURA was grilled for failure to solve transport issues in the city of Kigali despite a promise to increase the number of buses.
The Auditor General’s report showed that RURA entered into a five year’s contract with a tech transport company – AC Group, Rwanda to provide “free” wireless hotspot internet (WiFi) in buses but the project hit a dead end, yet passengers continued to be charged on the Tap&Go cards.
Every time a passenger uses the Tap&Go card, they are charged Rwf10 irrespective of age, having an internet enabled gadget, connecting onto the bus WiFi or not.
The AGs report showed that as of June 30, 2022, AC Group had already collected for RURA an amount of Rwf417,709,299 for internet charges from passengers for a nonexistent internet.
“Although passengers pay Rwf10 when they activate their card at the designated machine and this fee is included in the price of the trip, passengers are not provided with internet,” the AG said in the report of 2021/2022 resounding similar instances cited in previous reports.
MP Jean René Niyorurema asked what informed RURA’s decision to put internet in buses yet the biggest problem was getting passengers from one spot to another.
“Is the internet that was so urgent, or to get people off the roads to their destinations?” I personally took a bus from Nyabugogo to the city center using two buses, and none of them had internet,” Niyorurema stated.
He also wondered how passengers were using the alleged internet on their phones yet they are seen standing in the bus all the way and their hands holding the poles so as not to touch each other or fall down.
MP Christine Bakundufite wondered saying that in the usual business manners is that when you are going to give someone a service that they have to pay for, it is important they are informed but shockingly wondered if the public had been informed of the procedure.
The RURA Legal Department Head, Jacques Kabiru told the MPs that there was a weakness in the matter of internet connection in buses especially those operating in the City of Kigali.
Kabiru stated that the collected money from passengers was deposited in RURA accounts and it is still there.
He also stated that the funds cannot be refunded to individual travelers but could be returned to the public through many windows, such as transport subsidies.
PAC Chairman, MP Valens Muhakwa, said that the fact that the people paid their money for an internet service they did not receive it is incomprehensible and therefore there should be a way to return the money to the people.
Liberalize the Transport Market
MPs said that the transport system should be liberalized to resolve the current issues of long queues delays on bus stops whuch have taken ten years.
MPs also said that the fare prices should be revised as the current mode of transport doesn’t reflect fair competition- where tender operators set prices that don’t reflect the services given on ground.
“Nowadays one gets a job and instead of buying land they buy a car to resolve the problem of transport,” said MP Jean Claude Ntezimana.
MPs Christine Bakundufite and Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye decried the fact that citizens, in this development generation, spend hours in the rain on the bus stops thus tasked RURA to come up with a new liberal transport model.