UGANDA (eTN) – Following the long saga of the main lake transport ferry, MV Kalangala, which was taken out of service for major maintenance in the early second half of 2010, the government caved in to pressure from the media, the public, and in particular the island dwellers of the Ssese Islands, and took back the previously privatized operation of the ferry.
Considering that elections are due to be held in less than a month, this is clearly a smart move if government wishes to retain the votes of those living on and trading with the islands, and hence no time was lost after the return of the ferry from its inspection in Mwanza to take her back into service. The official reason given was that the initial 3-year contract with a private company had in any case expired, but it was learned that there was all intention of renewing the contract had it not been for the sustained pressure in particular from the media over the affair.
The private operators blamed governmental procurement rules for the long delays in getting the engine of the vessel overhauled and then additional complications arose over who was responsible for paying some of the bills. A lesson learned says this correspondent: Do not privatize services which are in the purview of government, especially when it comes to linking the islands of Lake Victoria with the mainland, as other considerations must supersede pure profit motivation, which was the case here. This is of particular importance in this case where safe and affordable lake transport is crucially important for the islands’ tourism industry and keeping the supply lines open for the residents of the islands. AND THAT is a government responsibility and NOT a matter for private exploitation.