By Brian Mayanja and Taddeo Bwambale
After only seven months in the city transport business, Pioneer Easy Bus may be closing business. The bus company seems to be submerged in a chain of endless problems.
New Vision online has learnt that the company has fired its chief executive officer, Seyi Osiyemi. The move came after a drivers’ sit-down strike that paralysed city transport recently.
Fred Senoga, the managing director of the company, said they fired Osiyemi due to incompetence. Another director, David Baingana, said: “He was hired to meet certain targets, which he failed. We are in business to excel,” Baigana explained.
Efforts to talk Osiyemi were futile as he is reportedly out of the country.
The bus company has phased-out some routes formerly plied by the buses, like Kampala-Luzira and Kampala-Kajjansi is also to follow suit.
The bus owners say they cut down the operations to pave way for the introduction of an automated fare collection system, following reports that some stewards were collecting money without issuing tickets.
The drivers said they had never received their daily allowances since the company started operating in March. The drivers are entitled to a daily allowance of sh15, 000 and a sh300, 000 monthly salary.
They added that even the free medical services they used to get at Naguru Hospital stopped.
Senoga said delays in paying salaries were due to management problems. “Some sectors had been neglected. But we have started making reforms,” he said. Other sources within the company attributed the financial crisis to a $10m loan they secured from Standard Chartered Bank to procure the 100 buses.
“We serve that loan at 15%. We secured another sh6b loan to pay URA. This why we are facing a lot of problems,” a source said.
Another issue they highlighted was that the buses are ever facing mechanical problems.
Senoga accused KCCA of failing to play its part in the contract, which had made it hard for the company to fulfill their side of the deal.
“KCCA wants us to pay the dues on time, yet we are competing with taxis. How shall we raise the funds,” he said. Since the firm phased-out some routes, a fleet of about 20 buses were parked and the drivers are reportedly working in shifts.
The company had also promised to import about 500 buses in one year, but there have been no new arrivals since 100 came in February.
New Vision has also learnt that since the bus company started operating in the city, it has also never remitted dues agreed on with KCCA.
According to the agreement, the firm was to pay sh300,000 per month for every bus operating in the city. Each bus reportedly makes about sh500, 000 per day. City Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago said the company owes KCCA approximately sh2.4b in uncollected taxes.