Sunday, March 27, 2011

Motor Vehicle Transfer - KRA's Flawed Process

I needed a vehicle transfer done recently. The KRA's Service Delivery Charter (here) states that it is my right as a customer to have KRA process and dispatch my motor vehicle transfer within 3 days. (see page 11 of the Charter)

So, my transfer was lodged on Friday 4th February 2011 at 4pm. Based on the guidelines spelt out in the charter, my registration document should have been dispatched by the 11th February.

The new registration document (in the name of the new was printed on the 23rd February

Immediately after printing, the registration document was sent to the "mkubwa's" office for signing. (Every registration document must be signed by a senior officer in the Road Transport Department). Once the document is signed it is sent straight to dispatch - a step in the process that is not captured by the KRA system (thus it is not possible to establish the exact date that signing takes place).

28 days later, on the 22nd March 2011 the registration document was dispatched (i.e. posted) and spent a further two days in the Posta system before being received on the 25th March.

It took 42 days for transfer to be processed by KRA (if we start counting from 7th February, which was the working day after the application was lodged, and excluding the day of dispatch from KRA). 14 times longer than spelled out in the charter.

Alarmingly, 66.6% (28/42 days) of the time KRA took to process the logbook is spent between signing and dispatch. I assume (generously) that dispatch takes 2 days maximum. So I estimate that about 62% of the time KRA took to process the transfer was spent waiting for a signature.

Sadly, I know from experience that this sort of waiting period is not the exception but is the norm with vehicle transfers. There is always a long delay waiting for mkubwa to sign the logbook.

Some background: In 2008, KRA changed the registration documents that it issues for cars. The old registration document was a hand written piece of card with 3 columns (lots of writing on it including vehicle make, model, engine numbers, names and addresses of all previous owners, name and address of current owner etc...all hand written). The new registration document is a much simpler single sheet of computer printed paper. It captures all vehicle details and only lists current owners details but not those of previous owners. I assume, part of the reason for this change was to increase security (the new document has some security features) as well as to increase speed and efficiency.

I am sure logbook production (printing) is now a lot faster but the increase in efficiency achieved by having computer printed logbooks is undone by retaining the "must be signed by mkubwa" bottleneck. Surely the new logbook system should have been designed to incorporate an oversight system that does not require the big man to physically sign every single logbook?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Driving "Test"..

Last night, Julie Gichuru had a piece on Citizen TV news about road accident blackspots that included an interview with the Kenya Police Traffic Commandant. Link here.

One of her first questions to the commandant was something along the lines of "Mr Commandant, what can we do to improve the situation on our roads?...should all drivers just get retested since many got their licenses in somewhat dubious circumstances?"

The commandant's answer went something like "Julie let me tell you...I appeal to all Kenyans who did not get their licenses in the correct manner to voluntarily step forward and take the test again"

It is a shame Julie did not push that point further because that statement right there really outraged me. Here's why: According to the Kenya Police website, the Traffic Police Department (of which the commandant is the head) is charged with the responsibility (among many others) of: "Testing of Drivers and Issuances of certificates of competence".

What that means is once a person has done driving school, they go to the police for their driving test. Specifically they go to the traffic police. The traffic police headed by none other than...

Now let me recount what my testing experience was (albeit many many long years ago).

A huge group arrived at the police station at 8am. At about 8.30am the tests started. The test consists of two parts; theory and practical. Theory is where you enter a room (individually) and get asked about road signs before being told to move a toy car on a model street.  Practical is where you would go out with a policeman and drive the car under his watch so he could judge your competence.

My theory was fairly straightforward. The policeman with a pointer would point to a sign on a board and I had to explain what the sign he had pointed to meant. Then he'd point to another sign etc etc..about five times. I think I got them all but he was moving so fast, I don't think he even listened for any answers. Then he asked me to move the toy car from point A to point B before turning away to talk to his colleague for most of the exercise. He only really saw the parking at the end bit of the exercise. Obviously as the only real witness of the event, I will say I was spot on with that part as well.

For the practical bit, a policeman would head out with groups of about 6-7 people, in a Datsun pickup, and test them individually. The test consisted of mainly starting the vehicle, moving forward a couple of metres, stopping the vehicle and pulling up the handbrake. In my group, one person was asked to do a hill start and a couple were asked to reverse the vehicle. All tests were done with all the other students sat in the back of the pickup as the driver was tested. No individual was in the driver's seat for longer than five minutes.

Now in my group, two people failed to even move the vehicle. They stalled again and again before being told to get out of the driver's seat by the policeman (a lot of dramatic shouting involved here.."Toka gari..toka kabisa..kumbafu!!" sort of thing). A couple managed to move the vehicle with lots of jerking after initially stalling. Only two of us were able to move the vehicle without any huge drama.

We then headed back to the police station and were told to come back for results in the afternoon.

Every single person who did the test in my group passed and therefore got a license.

So back to the traffic commandant...what annoyed me about his response is that he did not in any way take any sort of responsibility for the fact that a large proportion of drivers who "pass" driving tests and who have "passed" tests in the past can barely drive at all, nor did he indicate what has changed in the testing regime to ensure that nobody who is not fully competent to drive is ever given a license. Yes, fingers can be pointed at driving schools that do not seem to teach any driving whatsoever, but ultimately the fact is that if every single student who was not fit to drive failed his/her test, the driving schools would be forced to raise their standards. Thus in my view, the commandant needs to first and foremost restore the reputation of his testing service then he can ask us tosubmit ourselves for retesting.

A lax teaching and testing system is a big contributing factor to the problems we have on our roads and this aspect of road safety while not as glamorous for the media as alco-blows and grisly accidents needs to be highlighted much more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tamper Tantrum - The Imported Car

In October 2010, I went to the auto bazaar at Jamhuri Park. I saw the car below being sold for Kshs. 2.4 million.

It is a 2003 Toyota Harrier MCU35. The vehicle was very clean. The mileage on the odometer was just under 40,000 km.

I then did what I think any person about to invest in a car should do: I noted the chassis number and JEVIC sticker number and went to check on the details of the car. Imagine my surprise to find that the car, as clean as it looked, was not a 40,000 km car at all but was actually a 176,000km car (as at the time it was shipped from Japan). The car had arrived here and it's odometer had been tampered with. (The check can be done on the JEVIC website if you have the vehicle VIN/chassis number and inspection sticker number, both of which should be displayed on the JEVIC sticker which is normally on the left hand side of the windscreen for all ex-UK and ex-Japan cars - see example of sticker from a different vehicle below; you can put in the details and see a copy of the JEVIC certificate for the vehicle).

Now I say "imagine my surprise" but the truth is, I was not surprised at all. I expected the car mileage to be doctored. This is because the vast majority of newly imported cars sold in this market are doctored. If I were to guess I would say something like 80-90%.

As a vehicle importer (who for the record has never and will never change a mileage on any car I import), this phenomenon greatly disturbs and angers me. It distorts the market and it gives all vehicle importers a bad name (including the few who do not engage in this practice). However today, I am focused more on the car buyer point of view.

As a car buyer (or a buyer of any item at all), it would offend me to feel that somebody was trying to cheat me. However most car buyers in Kenya are very blase about this form of getting conned that occurs everyday. We have now reached a situation where many car buyers automatically go looking for cars expecting that the mileage has been "adjusted" (Yes! That is the euphemism I have heard used innocent and nice sounding) - yet confusingly insist on buying cars that are "low mileage".

It is usually very simple to do due diligence on any car from UK or Japan. You can simply ask to see a copy of the JEVIC certificate. As most cars are tampered with locally, the JEVIC certificate should have the actual mileage at the time of export. You can also take the chassis/VIN number and the JEVIC sticker number and check online. Usually when mileage is tampered, the mileage section on the sticker is rubbed out and sometimes it fades with time. But the sticker number (typed) never fades. Thus even if the mileage part has faded/been rubbed off, it is fairly simple to check sticker number, check VIN number and do the online check.

Taking, the example of the Harrier above, I estimate the car came in for about 1.7  - 1.9 million. It is being sold for 2.4 million. A genuine 40,000 km Harrier in the same colour, at the same time would probably be here for 2 - 2.1 million. You do the math.

Now as a customer, having the information about the genuine mileage of the car could be useful in one of two ways:
 - I could be totally outraged, pass on buying the car and tell all my friends that the seller is not honest OR
 - I may be a pragmatic deal-maker (which I believe most of us fancy ourselves as) and use that information as a bargaining chip to get a better deal.

Either way, I see no downside to having the true car information.

Do you?